Rail to refuge FAQs

About the scheme

Accessing money can be difficult for women experiencing domestic abuse, particularly if they are experiencing financial abuse. We know that it can stop women from travelling to safety and can be a huge barrier to support. The scheme was launched in March 2020 with Great Western Rail and Southeastern after Darren O’Brien, a Southeastern Station Manager, watched a Dispatches documentary about Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid.

The Women’s Aid Rail to refuge scheme means that survivors with a refuge space can travel for free across England, Scotland and Wales.


Covid-19/Coronavirus update

When lockdown started, the Rail Delivery Group were quick to respond to women’s needs and launched a temporary, nationwide scheme. For more information, you can see their press release here.

Since lockdown, there has been a huge increase in demand for Women’s Aid services and reports of domestic abuse have increased. However, Covid-19 does not cause domestic abuse, only perpetrators are responsible for their actions.


Will Rail to refuge be available after lockdown? 

Yes, Rail to refuge will continue on Southeastern and Great Western Rail networks.


How does the scheme work?

  1. A survivor reaches out for support to Women’s Aid.
  2. Once a refuge vacancy has been confirmed, the survivor will be informed.
  3. Now that the survivor has a confirmed refuge space, the refuge can book a ticket for the survivor so they can travel for free.
  4. After booking the ticket, the refuge can send the ticket and collection details to the survivor via a mobile phone. The survivor can then pick the ticket up from the station using any debit or credit card; they can travel like normal, on a normal ticket, without having to declare the ticket was free or that they are fleeing from domestic abuse.


Survivor FAQs

I need help and want to make a journey, what do I do?

Unfortunately, it is not possible for you to book your own ticket. To obtain a ticket, you need to have a confirmed refuge space. The refuge will then book your ticket for you.

If you are experiencing abuse and need support, please use the Women’s Aid Live Chat open Monday – Friday, 10am – 2pm. Our expert support workers will be able to help you and signpost to any available refuge spaces.


Why can’t I book my own ticket?

To ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are the only beneficiaries of the scheme and that all claims for free tickets are valid, the ticket holder must have a confirmed refuge space in a domestic abuse service known by the participating rail companies.


Will my name be recorded? 

No, the refuge will book your ticket so they will provide their details on the booking. You do not need to provide any details apart from your starting station and your arrival station. Only this information will be recorded and it will not be linked to you or your name.


Can my children use this service? 

Yes, if they are travelling with you. When speaking with a support worker, please ask for tickets for your children too. Rail travel is free for all children under 5. If your child is under 5, they do not need a ticket.


I have a ticket, what do I need to collect it and use it? 

You will need:

  • A mobile phone – This is so the refuge can share the collection code with you.
  • Any debit or credit card – You will need to use this to collect the ticket. It does not have to be the same card which was used to book the ticket and your card will not be charged.

We know that this is not perfect, and we are working on ways where the ticket can be collected without the need for a card.


Press FAQs

Is the scheme nationwide? 

Yes. Rail to refuge launched with Southeastern and Great Western Rail. When the country went into lockdown, the Rail Delivery Group were quick to respond to women’s needs and launched a temporary, nationwide scheme. We are working on how Rail to refuge can continue nationwide after lockdown.


Is the scheme available in Northern Ireland? 

No, the Rail Delivery Group only operate in England, Scotland and Wales. Women in Northern Ireland can get support from Women’s Aid Northern Ireland. 


How are the tickets paid for? 

The Rail Delivery Group covers the cost of nationwide travel. Southeastern and Great Western Rail cover the cost of journeys on their respective networks.


Can men use Rail to refuge? 

22 Women’s Aid member services provide refuge places for men. If a man has a confirmed refuge place in one of them, they can book the ticket for him and any children.


How can people help survivors? 

  • Share this FAQ blog to help survivors access the scheme
  • Share information on our services: Women’s Aid’s digital direct services continue to run, they include the Women’s Aid Live Chat (open Monday – Friday, 10am – 2pm), email service, Survivors’ Forum and the Survivor’s Handbook, they can all be found here: www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support
  • Donate to Women’s Aid so we can support more survivors.


Domestic Abuse Service FAQS


I work for a Women’s Aid member service and would like to use the scheme

Please visit the Covid-19 member section of the website for information on how to book free tickets for survivors.


I work with vulnerable people and would like to use the scheme but my organisation is not a Women’s Aid member

If you refer a survivor to a Women’s Aid member service and a refuge space is confirmed, the refuge can then book tickets for the survivor.


Why can only Women’s Aid member services book tickets?

In order to ensure survivors of domestic abuse benefit from the scheme, National Rail Enquires, Great Western Rail and Southeastern will check the domain name of the requester’s email against our list of member services.

During the first trial, free rail travel requests were received from non-domestic abuse organisations. To relieve the burden of checking if a claim is valid, the train companies requested that we share our members’ domain names with them. We are only able to share the information of our members, not organisations we don’t have a relationship with.

We are working on ways that the scheme could include non-members, please check back here for updates.   

© 2019 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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