You may have seen a claim spreading online that women escaping domestic violence for refuge can currently travel for free on UK trains. We’ve seen one post of this kind shared over 70,000 times on Facebook since it was posted on 16 August 2020.
There is a scheme co-ordinated by the charity Women’s Aid, that allows a person experiencing domestic abuse with a confirmed refuge space to access a free ticket to their refuge accommodation. They can also get free tickets for children over five who are coming with them (children under five are not charged for rail travel).
Women cannot book the free tickets themselves, but once a refuge space has been found for them, the refuge can book a ticket for the individual, who can then pick it up like any normal train ticket, from their station. The woman’s name will not be attached to the ticket, as the refuge books it for them.
The email address contained in the Facebook post is for use by the refuge only, not women seeking help. If you think you are in an abusive relationship, you can find local services in the Women’s Aid directory here. ITV also has a list of helplines for men and women.
The refuge in question must be a Women’s Aid domestic abuse member service to participate. There are a number of Women’s Aid member services that provide refuge places for men too, so men with confirmed spaces in these could also use the scheme.
The scheme only runs in England, Scotland and Wales, as the Rail Delivery Group, which covers the cost on most networks, only operates in these countries. The Rail Delivery Group is a membership body for all the passenger and freight rail companies, as well as Network Rail (which runs railway infrastructure) and HS2.
Southeastern and Great Western Rail cover the costs of the journeys taken under this scheme on their own networks. Southeastern has been running the scheme since 2019.