PEOPLE fleeing domestic abuse can apply for free train travel to refuge accommodation.

The commitment from rail companies comes as campaigners report a rise in requests for help from victims of domestic abuse since coronavirus lockdown measures came into force.

Between March 26 and April 1, Women’s Aid experienced a 41 per cent increase in users visiting their live chat site compared to the previous week. The Women’s Aid coronavirus advice page for survivors has had 27,000 page views since its launch. The rail to refuge scheme was introduced by Southeastern in 2019.

GWR joined the rail to refuge scheme last month. Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service has used it three times so far. CEO Emma Rawlings said: “Rail to refuge has already proved to be a lifesaver, helping several victims and their children to places of safety. We are already seeing a large rise in calls during this crisis and it is more important than ever we can access this essential travel service quickly.”

People escaping domestic abuse are usually advised to seek refuge services at a safe distance from their perpetrator but for many, raising the cash to pay for a train ticket can be very difficult. This is especially true for people experiencing economic abuse, who may have no access to cash.

The ‘rail to refuge’ scheme aims to remove this barrier by offering free train tickets for women or men, and their children, to travel to a recognized refuge. From today, survivors can access the tickets through the member services of Women’s Aid Federation of England once they've received an offer of a refuge place. Members of these organisations can book the tickets via a bespoke booking system for the people they are referring to, or receiving in, their refuge accommodation. Call 01793 610610