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

It was launched in the South of England 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. From April 9th the cost of tickets has been covered by the Rail Delivery Group, and extends the scheme across all of Britian’s rail networks, until the end of March 2021. 

If you would like to contribute to help survivors access the lifesaving support they need and help them reach refuge, please make a donation today.

How does the scheme work?

  1. A survivor reaches out for support from domestic abuse service which is a member of Women Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid or Imkaan.
  2. If it’s appropriate to refer the survivor to refuge, the survivor will be informed once a refuge vacancy has been confirmed.
  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 either use an e-ticket sent to their mobile phone or pick the ticket up from the station using any debit or credit card; they can travel like normal, without having to declare the ticket was free or that they are fleeing from domestic abuse.

If you are experiencing abuse, we are here for you

We know asking for help isn’t easy. But if you think you’re in an abusive relationship, reaching out for support can be an important first step. Services are fully trained and can give you a confidential space to explore your options and make safe decisions. You may be referred to a refuge and Rail to Refuge could help you get there.

The following organisations are part of Rail to Refuge.

Women's Aid

Reach out to one of our support services, including Live Chat or our email service


Imkaan address violence against Black and minoritised women and girls.

Men's Advice Line

The Helpline for male victims of domestic abuse run by Respect.

Scottish Women's Aid

Scottish Women’s Aid is the lead organisation in Scotland working towards the prevention of domestic abuse.

Welsh Women's Aid

Welsh Women’s Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women.

Rail to Refuge 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 either:

  • A mobile phone which can receive an e-ticket. This is so the refuge can share the collection code with you via text or Whatsapp.
  • Any debit or credit card. You will need to use this to collect the ticket, alongside a collection code the refuge will share with you. 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 or smartphone.

Is the scheme nationwide? 

Yes. Rail to Refuge launched with Southeastern and then Great Western Rail in March 2020 . When the country went into lockdown, the Rail Delivery Group were quick to respond to women’s needs and launched a temporary, nationwide scheme in April 2020 We are delighted that in November 2020 we can announce that the Rail Delivery Group will be able to continue to fund the cost of Rail to Refuge tickets will across Britain until the end of March 2021. 


Is the scheme available in Northern Ireland? 

The Rail Delivery Group only operate in England, Scotland and Wales However, Women in Northern Ireland can get support from Women’s Aid Northern Ireland.  Where there is a similar scheme in place.


How are the tickets paid for? 

The Rail Delivery Group covers the cost of nationwide travel.


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. Additionally, Respect, who run the Men’s Advice Line, can book tickets. 


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.

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 contact [email protected] for more information.

Your donation will help survivors access the support they need.

© 2020 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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