Network Rail has extended its support to domestic abuse victims by leading the rail industry in implementing an Online Safe Spaces service portal on its website.
Developed by Royal Mail Group (RMG) in collaboration with crisis charity Hestia and their UKSAYSNOMORE campaign, Online Safe Spaces is a virtual portal which can be installed on websites free of charge – providing support, advice and contact services via a pop-up window, and allowing users to access resources discreetly without leaving an online history trace.
Through Women in Rail, Network Rail was brought together with early adopters including High Speed 1 (HS1) and Southeastern Railway and is now encouraging others across the rail industry to implement the service on their websites.
Since the lockdown began in March 2020, reports of domestic abuse in the UK have increased dramatically, with Refuge reporting on their website a 25 per cent increase in calls and online requests.
In November 2020, Network Rail became a White Ribbon UK-accredited organisation, demonstrating its commitment to influencing collective action to change the behaviour and culture that leads to abuse or violence.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “We are delighted to support the Online Safe Spaces portal by making it available on our website. The pandemic is having a huge impact on our country’s most vulnerable and this platform will be a vital resource for those who may be subjected to domestic abuse.”
Dyan Crowther, Chief Executive Officer, HS1 Ltd said: “We are proud to be amongst the first organisations to be driving forward this important initiative in our industry.
“We want to ensure that our stations and the entire passenger journey is a safe environment for those who need it. Through leading by example, I hope we can influence others to take part, support communities and make a greater stand against violence and domestic abuse.”
David Statham, Managing Director, Southeastern Railway, said: “This is an extension to the support we and other train operators have already pledged in this area. The Online Safe Space portal could help save a life or offer an opportunity for a way out. It’s simple, it’s discreet and provides information such as national helplines and local support services very quickly, without leaving an online trace.
“Often, a passenger journey starts online, with booking tickets and researching fares and train times. Providing discretion and support at the beginning of that journey could make a difference. And this difference takes an industry effort.”
Network Rail encourages passengers to seek help at its stations if they need it. This is in addition to the Rail to Refuge initiative – a joint effort between rail companies and Women’s Aid – seeing train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. Since April 2020, the scheme has helped almost 1,000 people fleeing abuse, including more than 200 children.
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