Road to refuge scheme offers free coach travel for abuse survivors

Oct 12, 2023 | News

Women, men and children who are escaping domestic abuse in the UK may benefit from a new scheme to offer abuse survivors free National Express coach travel across the UK.  

Women’s Aid, a charity that works to end domestic abuse, has teamed up with the coach operator for the , to offer people the chance to reach safe refuge accommodation and support.

The scheme is particularly crucial, say organisers, as survivors who are escaping domestic abuse are often advised to seek refuge services far away from their perpetrator. For many, paying for travel can be very challenging and a barrier to seeking refuge: survivors will likely be carrying little money and belongings when fleeing abuse. This is especially true for women experiencing economic abuse, who may have little to no access to money, they say.

The Road to Refuge scheme is an extension of Women’s Aid’s in which survivors can access free travel on the UK’s rail network. Between that scheme’s launch in April 2020, up until October 2023, Rail to Refuge has helped 7,432 survivors, including 2,146 children, reach safety.

Their research indicates that 64% of survivors would not have been able to travel without Rail to Refuge, and could have been left at increased risk of violence or turning to suicide.

National Express first supported the expansion of the Rail to Refuge scheme in the summer of 2022, supporting survivors during rail strikes by offering its coach services for free when survivors were unable to flee by train. 

The Road to Refuge scheme will be truly lifesaving

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse isolates survivors from their finances, making it incredibly difficult to escape to safety. We are delighted to be working with National Express on the Road to Refuge scheme, removing the financial barrier to fleeing abuse and helping survivors access safe refuge at no cost to them.”

The Road to Refuge scheme will be “truly lifesaving”. Nazeer added.  

Charlotte Masters, customer experience director at National Express, explained that survivors will be provided with free travel on any of the company’s services to more than 550 destinations across the UK, arranged through their refuge.

“Survivors can access free travel on any of our services to more than 550 destinations across the UK, arranged through their refuge.”

How does Road to Rail work?

  • A survivor requests support from a domestic abuse service that 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 will book 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 it 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. 
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