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Women’s Aid launches Rail to Refuge impact briefing

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  • Since its launch, the scheme has helped 2,265 survivors including 650 children reach safety
  • On average, Rail to Refuge helps 4 survivors, including children, find safety each day
  • 64% of survivors would not have been able to travel without Rail to Refuge, and could have been left at increased risk of homicide or suicide

The continuation of this scheme beyond March 2022 - the current potential end date for Rail to Refuge - is vital. With upcoming changes to Rail Delivery Group, the facilitators of the scheme, confirming how Rail to Refuge will be funded in future is essential to ensure the scheme’s continuation. Women’s Aid are also keen to discuss with the Department for Transport the potential for expansion of the scheme on buses, trams and ferries. 

Women’s Aid is also encouraging public sector organisations and private sector transport companies to support the work, and for Black and minoritised women’s organisations and specialist women’s organisations to be involved in the design of future schemes for survivors. For future schemes to effectively support survivors, it is crucial that there is appropriate safety and support in place for survivors and full training for staff. Services for survivors must be joined-up with frontline services to provide optimal, holistic support.

About the scheme: The Rail to Refuge scheme offers free train travel to women, children and men fleeing domestic abuse, who have been given an offer of a place in refuge. Free train travel, provided by train companies, can be booked by member services of Women’s Aid Federation of England (WAFE), Welsh Women’s Aid (WWA), Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) and Imkaan (the UK’s umbrella organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls). These organisations can make bookings when offering them a place in their refuge, or referring them to a refuge place outside of these organisations’ memberships. The scheme was introduced by all train operators during the first lockdown, having been pioneered by Southeastern in 2019 and joined by GWR in March 2020.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“This report shows just how many women and children’s lives have been saved through Rail to Refuge. When we know abuse isolates you from your finances, this scheme, which takes these barriers into account and brings survivors to safety at no cost to them, is exemplary. The continuation of this scheme is essential for the safety of women. It is a lifeline for survivors who would otherwise be trapped in abuse and at a huge increased risk.   

“We are delighted that train companies have worked with us to remove such a significant financial barrier to escaping abuse and hope to receive positive news soon regarding funding that secure the future of this lifesaving scheme.” 

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Executive of Rail Delivery Group, said:

“The railway has an important role to play in ensuring a fair recovery from the pandemic right across the country, so train companies are immensely proud to have helped over two thousand people so far to escape domestic abuse and get to a place of safety. This report shows almost two thirds of people wouldn’t have been able to leave without the free travel provided by train companies, so it really does offer a way out for the people who urgently need it.”

Contact the Women’s Aid press office at [email protected], 020 7566 2511 / 07517 132 943

Notes to editors

  • Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Since 1974 we have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse, with survivors at the heart of our work. We are a federation of over 170 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country.
  • Women’s Aid provides expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated. An estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020 with young women aged 16-24 years continuing to be the age group at most risk (ONS 2020).
  • If you are worried that your partner, or that of a friend or family member, is controlling and abusive, go to for support and information, including Live Chat, the Survivors’ Forum, The Survivor’s Handbook and the Domestic Abuse Directory. Live Chat is open from 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday and 10 am – 6 pm on weekends for confidential expert support from specialised support workers.
  • Rail Delivery Group - The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) brings together the companies that run Britain’s railway into a single team with one goal - to deliver a better railway for you and your community. All the passenger and freight rail companies are members of the RDG, as well as Network Rail and HS2 (see the full list of our licensed and associate members). RDG provides services and support to enable its members to succeed in transforming and delivering a successful railway, benefiting customers, taxpayers and the economy. RDG also provides support and give a voice to freight and passenger operators, as well as delivering important national ticketing, information and reservation services for passengers and staff on behalf of member companies.

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