Britain’s train companies are offering free travel for people fleeing domestic abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.
The announcement comes amid reports of an increase in domestic violence since measures to tackle the virus came into force.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said that from Thursday, sufferers of domestic violence can apply for free travel to refuge accommodation.
The partnership between train companies and charity Women’s Aid follows similar initiatives by Southeastern and Great Western Railway prior to the pandemic.
Women’s Aid experienced a 41% increase in users of its online live chat service between March 26 and April 1 compared with the previous week.
People escaping domestic abuse are often advised to seek refuge services at a considerable distance from their perpetrator, but raising cash to pay for a train ticket can be difficult.
Women’s Aid acting chief executive Nicki Norman said the offer of free train travel “could be lifesaving for countless women and children”.
She went on: “During the pandemic, women and children trapped with a perpetrator are incredibly vulnerable as the lockdown has already shut down common routes to safety and support.
“When you pair this with the increased economic uncertainty being experienced by many, escaping abuse is more difficult than ever but we hope that this initiative can help those most in need.”
RDG chief operating officer Jac Starr said: “At this time of national crisis, the rail industry is committed to working together not only to keep trains running for key workers and vital freight, but to support the most vulnerable people within the communities we serve.”