A database of people who die by suicide on Australia's railways is being created in the hope that more can be learnt about how best to tackle a problem that claims hundreds of lives and frequently devastates train drivers.

Railway station staff will also be trained, beginning this month, to detect warning signs that a person intends self-harm and on appropriate ways to intervene.

There are 150 deaths by suicide a year on Australia's railways and between 30 and 40 in Melbourne. Industry group the TrackSafe Foundation is leading a nationwide push to reduce the number.

In November, TrackSafe proposed building a national database to enable a more accurate demographic profile of near hits and trespassing incidents.

This year it held a three-month trial, with the help of 12 Australian rail operators, which has revealed early trends about rail suicide.

''On the whole the trial was a success, with early indications of demographic trends starting to emerge,'' the Australasian Railway Association said in its quarterly report, published this month.

''For example, an overwhelming majority of trespassers are shown to be male and most trespass incidents occur in the late afternoon and at night.''

The association will this month lead a rail industry workshop in Sydney, in partnership with Lifeline and the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, to teach station staff how to detect signs that someone on a platform is a suicide risk.

Association chief executive Bryan Nye said certain behavioural traits were already known.

''They may have visited the station once before, they can spend up to 30 minutes on the platform before jumping, there are some definite behaviour patterns you can look at,'' Mr Nye said.

The rail industry's new willingness to confront rail suicide was applauded by one of Australia's leading mental health experts.

Pat McGorry, executive director at Orygen Youth Health, said it was wrong to suggest talking about rail suicide would encourage copycat behaviour.

''The community does not realise how serious the issue is,'' he said. ''If people knew that every few days someone was dying in front of a train … it wouldn't be hidden this way.''

For help or information, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au