FREE train travel for people fleeing abusive relationships has been extended ahead of an expected surge in demand. Some 836 people - including 210 children - have been given free travel to refuge accommodation since April, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said. Domestic violence reports increased during the first coronavirus lockdown, and charities are braced for an increase in people seeking travel to safety when current restrictions are eased. The free rail travel scheme was launched by Southeastern in September 2019 and Great Western Railway in March 2020. All of Britain's train operators formed a partnership with charity Women's Aid to join the programme on April 9. It was initially set to last for 12 weeks, but has been extended until the end of March 2021. The scheme can be accessed through Women's Aid, which experienced a 41 per cent increase in demand for its online chat service after the first lockdown began in March. 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.