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All rail operators have been urged to sign up

Women fleeing an abusive relationship are to be given free train travel under a new scheme.

Victims across the south of England, West Midlands and south Wales are the first to benefit from the “Rail to Refuge” initiative, after Southeastern and Great Western Railway signed up.

Domestic abuse victim Amanda, whose name has been changed, said it was a “lifeline” for women in need.

“It’s empowering, and I hope other rail operators get on board,” she said.

‘Nowhere to go’

The scheme was the brainchild of Southeastern station manager Darren O’Brien, who said even though “it is a only a small thing”, it could “make an enormous difference” to women in dire circumstances.

Abuse victims can contact the charity Women’s Aid, or a domestic abuse helpline or local outreach service, and if necessary a refuge space will be found and the train ticket obtained on the woman’s behalf.

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Representatives from Women’s Aid, GWR and Southeastern gathered for the launch on Wednesday

Amanda, whose partner emotionally and financially abused her for two years, left after he hit her.

She had no money, as she had stopped working to look after their child.

“That is the point when you are most vulnerable,” she said. “You have no money, you may have been forced to cut off friends and family during your relationship, you can’t see any future, and your abuser is at their most aggressive.”

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Of all the women killed by their ex in 2017, 55% died in the first month after separation and 87% within 12 months, Women’s Aid says

She added: “Often all women have is the shirt on their back, and with nowhere to go – it’s really scary.

“Knowing you can put some distance between you and your abuser is reassuring and empowering.”

Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Access to cash is a major barrier for women escaping an abusive partner, and free train travel will be one less thing for these women to worry about at a time of acute crisis.”

A director at GWR, Joe Graham, said: “The railway is much more than trains and rail track; it is about supporting the communities that it serves.”

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