Free rail travel for domestic abuse victims extended

Domestic abuse victims will be given free rail travel when seeking refuge until next spring as charities predict a surge in people fleeing relationships once lockdown restrictions lift

  • Train companies are extending free train travel for victims of domestic abuse
  • Rail to Refuge scheme is joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid
  • Move comes as figures show four survivors a day have been using the scheme

Domestic abuse victims seeking refuge will continue to be given free rail travel as train companies extend a charity partnership scheme. 

The Rail to Refuge scheme is a joint initiative between UK rail companies and Women’s Aid which sees train operators cover the cost of tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation.

It was originally due to expire with the easing of lockdown restrictions but will now be extended until April. 

It comes as charities predict a surge in the number of victims fleeing domestic abuse when England’s lockdown ends next week.   

Since April, train operators have provided free tickets to 836 people, including 210 children. An average of four survivors a day use the scheme. 

Train companies are extending free train travel for victims of domestic abuse until the end of March next year. Stock image

The scheme was first introduced by Southeastern in September 2019, before the Covid crisis, and was put in place across Britain shortly after the start of the first national lockdown. 

It is vital because some victims of domestic abuse have had some financial control taken by their abuser and do not have the funds to pay for their own travel. 

Charities are reportedly bracing themselves for another surge in people fleeing abusive relationships when the latest national restrictions in England are lifted on December 2. 

Nicki Norman, acting chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: ‘Women face huge barriers in leaving an abuser. 

How to access the Rail to Refuge scheme

Survivors of domestic abuse who would like to access the Rail to Refuge scheme, or need other support, can get in touch with Women’s Aid through their Live Chat service. 

The service is open Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am – 12:00pm:

If you would like to contribute to help survivors access the life-saving support they need and help them reach refuge, please make a donation today.

‘Not only is it an extremely dangerous time, but many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse, which restricts their practical ability to escape. 

‘Women tell us that they simply cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own.

‘Many women and children escape to a refuge with nothing at all.’ 

The number of survivors of domestic abuse asking for help has soared during the pandemic. 

Women’s Aid reported a 41 per cent increase in users visiting its instant messaging Live Chat site within the first two weeks of lockdown in March. 

Respect, which runs the Men’s Advice Line, has increased service hours from 46 to 75 hours weekly to support male victims, after seeing a huge surge in demand since March. 

Jacqueline Starr, chief operating officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘We’re proud to have provided a vital lifeline for almost a thousand people escaping a desperate situation, but there are still too many women, men and children that need help. 

‘Our staff are working hard to support the survivors of domestic abuse with free train journeys while keeping the railway running for all the people, communities and local economies that rely on it.’ 

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit, or 

Where can domestic abuse victims seek help during lockdown?

Hannah Bridgwood, associate solicitor at Clarke Willmott LLP, outlined what exactly these emergency measures mean for vulnerable women: 

Are there provisions in the Coronavirus bill for victims of domestic abuse who will be isolated with their abuser?

The measures provide for people leaving their home in exceptional circumstances and one of these is to ‘avoid or escape risk of injury or harm’.

So, if you are in fear for your safety and that of your children, you are able to leave your household to get help and seek refuge.

The police have been placed on high alert because other countries have experienced a significant increase in domestic abuse since lockdown was introduced. The police are ready and willing to help.

If you are in immediate danger, you should never hesitate to call 999 straight away. If you are unable to speak because you are scared your abuser will hear, you can dial 55 during your call; this will alert the police that the call is genuine, extremely urgent and will be prioritised.

Solicitors can help; the courts remain open and are able to deal with emergency applications quickly. We can apply for non-molestation orders which are injunctions designed to protect you and your children from further harm.

We can also apply for occupation orders to get your abuser out of the family home. It is worth noting that if your abuser pays the bills and rent/mortgage, the court can also order that they can carry on paying. We offer telephone and video calls so that we can act quickly to get you the protection you need. 


Women’s Aid is providing advice specifically designed for the current Covid-19 outbreak, including a live chat service they will help you flee, locate a safe place to stay and provide you with support to help you come to terms with your experiences. 


The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. They will help you to plan your escape, locate safe accommodation and support you throughout. 

They can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.

GALOP – for members of the LGBT+ community

Galop is a LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or you can contact them by email [email protected] . They will support you to safety.


Hestia is another domestic abuse charity that provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides guidance, support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those worried about someone they know you can download at the app store or android store. 


Chayn provides online help and resources in a multiple languages, to help sufferers and friends supporting those being abused. 


The National Domestic Abuse Helpline  can provide guidance and support for victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. 

They can be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. 

They will also call you back at a safe time if you book a call through their website.


If you are worried that your abuser will leave you financially vulnerable, the charity Surviving Economic Abuse can provide additional guidance and support.

The government has recognised that sufferers of domestic abuse may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time. Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to crack down on those using the lockdown to make their victims feel ‘especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed’. 

She told The Mail on Sunday she was aware that for some ‘home is not the safe haven it should be’, adding: ‘I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed.

‘But my message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.

‘I also want to make clear – whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.

‘In times of crisis such as these, whilst we are socially distancing ourselves, we must not forget the most vulnerable in society. 

‘Last year on average three people a week were killed as a result of domestic abuse and this year’s statistics are expected to increase as a result of the current Covid-19 lockdown. I would encourage anyone currently in fear of domestic abuse to reach out; to the police, to me or to specialist charities.’ 

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