Free rail travel for abuse victims extended by Greater Anglia
- Credit: Paul Geater
Greater Anglia is extending its support for a scheme set up by the rail industry to offer free travel for people fleeing from abusive relationships.
The move comes as figures show four survivors of domestic abuse a day nationally, on average, have been using the scheme and reports show that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.
Christmas can be a time of year when incidences of domestic violence increase. As charities prepare for an increase in cases, the extension will help those affected to take the train, for free, to reach a safe refuge.
‘Rail to refuge’ is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation.
Since April, train operators have provided free tickets to 836 people, including 210 children.
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First introduced by Southeastern in September 2019 and then GWR on its routes in March 2020, Greater Anglia and other rail operators joined the Rail to refuge scheme on April 9 - with the original plan to keep it in place for approximately 12 weeks, or for the duration of lockdown.
However, with refuges expecting a spike in demand now national restrictions have eased, the scheme has been extended for the rest of the financial year until the end of March 2021. This means hundreds more survivors will access free travel.
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Nicki Norman, acting chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “Women face huge barriers in leaving an abuser.
"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.”
Jacqueline Starr, chief operating officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We’re proud to have provided a vital lifeline for almost 1,000 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.”
Survivors of domestic abuse who would like to access the scheme, or need other support, can get in touch with Women’s Aid through their Live Chat service.
It is open Monday to Friday, 10am until 4pm, and Saturday to Sunday, from 10am until noon at https://chat.womensaid.org.uk