Free train travel for people fleeing abusive relationships has been extended in anticipation of an expected increase in demand amid the possible lifting of lockdown restrictions.
About 836 people – including 210 children – have had free travel to their refuge since April, the industry association Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.
Domestic violence incidents increased during the first coronavirus blockade, and charities are gearing up for an increase in the number of people seeking safety travel as current restrictions are relaxed.
The free train travel program was launched by Southeastern in September 2019 and Great Western Railway in March 2020. All train companies in the UK then formed a partnership with the charity Women’s Aid to join the program on April 9.
It was initially set for 12 weeks, but will now run until the end of March 2021.
The program can be accessed through Women’s Aid, where demand for its online chat service rose 41 percent after the initial lockdown began in March.
You don’t have to suffer in silence when you are struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact if you need help:
Samaritans: Call 116 123, 24 hours a day, or send an email to [email protected], in confidence
Childline: call 0800 1111. Calls are free and will not appear on your bill
PAPYRUS: A volunteer organization that supports suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: a good cause for people with depression. Not a helpline but provides useful resources and links to other information on its own website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are suicidal. Click here attend
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults dealing with bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
People escaping domestic violence may be advised to seek refuge a considerable distance from their place of residence, but raising money for a train ticket can be difficult.
Jacqueline Starr, RDG chief operating officer, said: “We are proud to have provided a vital lifeline to nearly a thousand people who have escaped from a desperate situation, but there are still too many women, men and children who need help.
“Our employees are working hard to support survivors of domestic violence with free rail travel while keeping the railroad running for all the people, communities and local economies that depend on it.”
Nicki Norman, acting director of Women’s Aid, said women face “huge obstacles in leaving an abuser behind.”
She explained, “Women tell us they just can’t afford to leave because the culprit has their money in their hands and they don’t have any of their own. Many women and children flee to refuge with nothing at all.
“By removing the financial barriers to travel by the rail industry, hundreds of women have left abusive relationships and gained access to security. It’s good news that this important initiative is expanding, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have dire consequences for survivors of domestic violence. “