Rail to Refuge

Travel to Refuge  

Free travel for those fleeing domestic abuse. 

Travel to Refuge is an umbrella scheme in which travel companies cover the cost of train or coach tickets for women, men and children escaping domestic abuse travelling to refuge accommodation. It’s made up of two schemes:

  • Rail to Refuge, a joint initiative between Women’s Aid and the Rail Delivery Group, set up in April 2020, providing free rail travel for survivors of abuse.

  • Road to Refuge, a joint initiative between Women’s Aid and National Express, set up in 2023, providing free coach travel for survivors of abuse.  

Donate today to help survivors access the lifesaving support they need and help them reach refuge.

Help raise awareness of this life-saving scheme.

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 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. 

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 Travel 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.

About Rail to Refuge 

First introduced by train operators Southeastern and Great Western Railway, the Rail to Refuge scheme became a nationwide initiative in April 2020, run centrally through the Rail Delivery Group, when a raise in domestic abuse was reported due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Since the scheme’s launch in April 2020, the scheme has helped 5,810 survivors, including 1,682 children over five to safety.

The scheme genuinely does save lives. Survivors escaping domestic abuse are usually advised to seek refuge services far away from their perpetrator, but for many, raising the cash to pay for a train ticket can be very difficult and become a barrier to seeking refuge. This is especially true for women experiencing economic abuse, who may have no access to cash.

“When I needed help but couldn’t afford a train ticket, I was told about the Rail to Refuge program. At that point, I realised I could leave, and I wasn’t trapped anymore.”

About Road to Refuge 

In summer 2022, National Express supported the expansion of the scheme by supporting survivors during rail strikes, offering their coach services for free when survivors were unable to flee by train. Road to Refuge is now a permanent scheme enabling survivors to travel to refuge by coach for free at any time.

Travel to Refuge FAQs 

Survivor FAQs

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 to Friday 8am – 6pm, Saturday to Sunday, 10am-6pm. Our expert support workers will be able to help you and signpost to any available refuge spaces. 

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

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. 

Yes, if they are travelling with you. When speaking with a support worker, please ask for tickets for your children too.  

  • 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 or email. 
  • Or 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. 

  • If travelling by coach, the service organising your ticket can also receive the ticket by post and pass to you directly. 

Press FAQs

Since launching in April 2020, up to October 2023, Rail to Refuge has helped 7432 survivors including 2146 children reach safety. 

Yes. Rail to Refuge launched with Southeastern and then Great Western Railway in March 2020. When the country went into lockdown, the Rail Delivery Group were quick to respond to women’s needs and launched a nationwide scheme in April 2020. National Express operate Road to Refuge across the UK and Ireland, travelling to over 550 locations. For details of all destinations, please visit National Express’ Route Map. 

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

National Express has coach stops at Belfast City Centre and Belfast Port. 

Depending on the mode of transport, the Rail Delivery Group or National Express cover the cost of nationwide travel. 

30 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. 

  • People can help by  raising awareness of these life-saving schemes. 
  • 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, 8am – 6pm and Saturday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm), email service, Survivors’ Forum and the Survivor’s Handbook, they can all be found here.
  • Donate to Women’s Aid so we can support more survivors. 

Domestic Abuse Service FAQs 

Please visit the Member’s section of the website for information on how to book free tickets for survivors. 

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. Women’s Aid member services can be found through ourdomestic abuse directory. 

To ensure survivors of domestic abuse benefit from the scheme, National Rail Enquiries, Great Western Railway, Southeastern or National Express 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 actual members, not organisations we do not have a relationship with. 

We are working on ways that the scheme could include non-members. Please contact railtorefuge@womensaid.org.uk for more information. 

Help us raise awareness of this lifesaving scheme

We need domestic abuse survivors to be aware of the Travel to Refuge scheme to help them reach safety. You can play a vital part by simply helping raise awareness.

Donate to support survivors of abuse

Your donation will help survivors access the support they need. 

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