Original article from Kent Live
The lifesaving 'Rail to Refuge' scheme has been extended by Southeastern and other railway operators across the country.
Initially started by Southeastern in April 2020, the project has helped 1,348 men, woman and children escape domestic abuse by using railway services to reach safe refuge.
Rail to Refuge is in collaboration with Women's Aid in which rail companies cover the cost of tickets of domestic abuse survivors travelling to refuge accommodation
On average four people every day use the service, and many of these do not have the necessary access to money to purchase the lifesaving railway ticket.
Southeastern said almost two-thirds of Rail to Refuge users would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for.
Train companies have now decided to continue Rail to Refuge as reports show that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of survivors currently experiencing abuse say that their abuser has started using lockdown restrictions or the Covid-19 virus and its consequences as part of the abuse
Southeastern station manager Darren O’Brien first thought of the idea after watching a Dispatches documentary ‘Safe at Last’ about Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid
Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women's Aid said: "Women face many barriers to escaping an abuser. Leaving your home because you and your children are not safe is a huge undertaking.
"Additionally, leaving the abuser is a dangerous time with a huge rise in the likelihood of violence after separation, so it needs to be done as safely as possible, with support from expert refuge services.
“We are delighted that train companies have worked with us to remove a significant barrier to people escaping abuse.
"The Rail to Refuge scheme will continue to be lifesaving for hundreds of women and children, and it is incredibly welcome news that it has been extended."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also shared his support for the scheme, stating how "vital" and "lifesaving" it is for so many people.
He said: “I support every effort to counter the insidious and heinous crime of domestic abuse. Rail to Refuge has helped hundreds of survivors to reach safety by removing the financial barriers that prevent escape.
“Extending this vital support is truly lifesaving and I thank all those working so hard to help keep people safe on our railways.”