GWR extends domestic abuse free rail travel

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Image caption,
Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service said the scheme 'without doubt has saved lives'

A national scheme offering free travel to victims fleeing domestic abuse has been extended by rail operators.

Rail to Refuge gives free train tickets to people contacting Women's Aid for help. The charity then organises a place of refuge and books travel.

Great Western Railway (GWR) said so far they've helped more than 220 adults and children get to a place of safety.

A mother from Wiltshire who escaped domestic abuse via the scheme told the BBC it had "saved her life".

'Can't afford to leave'

Since Rail to Refuge began in March 2020, 1,348 people have used the service nationally, equal to four survivors a day, figures show.

Of those who used it, 62% said they would not have travelled if their journey had not been paid for.

Women's Aid chief executive Farah Nazeer, said: "Many women and children have to travel long distances to escape their abuser.... In addition, many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse and will not have access to a bank, credit card or even cash.

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

"The Rail to Refuge scheme will continue to be lifesaving for hundreds of women and children, and it is incredibly welcome news that it has been extended."

'Saved lives'

Swindon's Domestic Abuse Support Service chief executive, Emma Rawlings, said: "We have used the scheme extensively since it was launched and know first-hand the difference it is making.

"Rail to Refuge has removed an obstacle within that process and without doubt has saved lives."

GWR Business Assurance Director, Joe Graham, said: "When we launched Rail to Refuge in March 2020 we knew how important this scheme would be...

"The extension of the national scheme... means we can continue to help get those who need help to a place of safety anywhere in the country."

Earlier this month, the charity Refuge said it had seen a massive increase in appeals for help over the last year.

In August, a Women's Aid survey reported domestic abuse had worsened during the pandemic and 67% of survivors who are currently experiencing abuse said that their abuser has started using lockdown restrictions or the Covid-19 virus and its consequences as part of the abuse.

For information and support on domestic abuse, contact:

  • Police: 999 press 55 when prompted if you can't speak
  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • Refuge UK-wide 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • Men's Advice Line 0808 801 0327

Online webchats and text services are also available.

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