Women’s Aid and National Express launch Road to Refuge

Women’s Aid has joined forces with the UK’s leading scheduled coach operator to support survivors of abuse by providing free National Express coach travel across the UK.

The Road to Refuge scheme provides women, men and children escaping domestic abuse with access to free National Express coach travel to reach safe refuge accommodation and support.

The scheme is particularly crucial as survivors escaping domestic abuse are often advised to seek refuge services far away from their perpetrator. For many, paying for travel can be very difficult and become a barrier to seeking refuge as survivors will likely be carrying little money and belongings when fleeing abuse. This is especially true for women experiencing economic abuse, who may have little to no access to money.

The new Road to Refuge scheme is an extension of Women’s Aid’s Rail to Refuge programme whereby survivors can access free travel on the UK’s rail network. Since the launch of Rail to Refuge in April 2020, up to 1st October 2023 the scheme has supported 7,432 survivors, including 2,146 children over 5 to safety. On average, Rail to Refuge helps on average 6 survivors, including children, find safety each day. 

National Express initially supported the expansion of the Rail to Refuge scheme in summer 2022, supporting survivors during rail strikes by offering their coach services for free when survivors were unable to flee by train. 

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

“Domestic abuse isolates survivors from their finances, making it incredibly difficult to escape to safety. We are delighted to be working with National Express on the Road to Refuge scheme, removing the financial barrier to fleeing abuse and helping survivors access safe refuge at no cost to them. 

“It is a vital scheme for survivors who would otherwise be trapped and at a huge increased risk of further abuse. The Road to Refuge scheme will be truly lifesaving, giving survivors the opportunity to travel to vital, specialist support for free.”

Charlotte Masters, Customer Experience Director at National Express, said:

“We are proud to partner with Women’s Aid on the Road to Refuge scheme, offering survivors free travel to a safe place on our extensive coach network across the country. 

“Our aim is to make the process of travelling as stress free as possible for survivors, taking away the financial barrier to escaping abuse and helping them reach their destination for help and support, safely.

“Survivors can now access free coach travel in an emergency, when fleeing to refuge.

Contact the Women’s Aid press office at press@womensaid.org.uk, 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 www.womensaid.org.uk 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. 
  • National Express – National Express is the UK’s largest coach operator, running high-frequency scheduled coach services linking more than 550 destinations across the country. We also deliver coach travel to major airports, festivals, and events and are the official transport provider for Wembley Stadium. We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with over 1,800 services every day.  Our modern coaches offer comfortable seats with plenty of legroom, free Wi-Fi and USB charging points.  

How does the scheme work?


  • A survivor reaches out for support from a domestic abuse service which is a member of Women’s Aid Federation of England, Imkaan, Scottish Women’s Aid or Welsh Women’s Aid (including Respect’s Men’s Advice Line). 
  • If appropriate, the survivor will be referred to a refuge and will be informed once a refuge vacancy has been confirmed. 
  • The refuge books a free train or coach ticket for the survivor. 
  • The refuge can send the ticket and collection details to the survivor via a mobile phone. The survivor can then either use an e-ticket or text sent to their mobile phone, pick the ticket up from the station using any debit or credit card, or the refuge can request the ticket via post and provide it to the survivor in person. They can travel like normal, without having to declare the ticket was free or that they are fleeing from domestic abuse. 
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