Free onward travel for refugees – Q&A

Information from DREC
We (Government) have a proud history of supporting evacuees, and we want to be as generous as we possibly can.   Britain’s Train Operators will provide free onward train travel for Ukrainian refugees on arrival in GB’s major ports   Other transport operators in England will also take part in the scheme including bus, coach, light rail and metro companies where available.  

Q. What is the scheme?
From Sunday 20th March 2022, Rail operators will provide refugees with a single onward journey via national rail free of charge on arrival in Great Britain to their final destination.
They have 48 hours to make their onward journey. They only need to show a Ukrainian passport and a boarding pass or ticket showing arrival into the country within the last 48 hours.

Q. Who is eligible?
Ukrainian nationals who have arrived in the country in the past 48 hours.

Q. How long is it valid for?
The journey can be claimed within 48 hours of arrival. The initiative will run for three months when the industry will review it.

Q. How will you prevent fraudulent use?
We perceive the initial fraud risk of this scheme to be minimal as there are only a relatively small number of Ukrainian passport holders currently living in the country.
The initial checks allow us to stand up operations extremely quickly and we will be reviewing the scheme for a longer-term solution.

Q. Are rail staff expected to do the work of border staff?
No. All visa checks will have taken place during the international leg of the journey, meaning users of the scheme will have already cleared entry controls.

Q. Can users of the offer travel at any time?
We are recommending that onward travel takes place at off-peak times, however we recognise that this may not always be possible.

Q. How will this impact other rail passengers?
We do not anticipate any disruption to other passengers but we will monitor the scheme and make any amendments if necessary.

Q. What is the cost?
This is a cost-neutral initiative which is providing free travel to Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing conflict. The scheme would not see any revenue recorded as refugees would be given a ‘permit to travel’.

Q. How can non-English speaking refugees find out?
All the information is on National Rail Enquiries (, it will be translated to Ukrainian and Russian in due course.

Q. What happens when they reach their final destination?
Many people will be traveling to see family already based in the UK – one of the visa schemes is specifically designed for this purpose. In addition, the Homes for Ukraine scheme will see the British public welcoming refugees into their homes.

Q. Why is the scheme not open till Sunday 20th?
We need to allow time for systems to be finalised and for station staff to be thoroughly briefed on the process and proforma for offering free travel.  We are also not anticipating significant numbers of refugees arriving into the country in the next couple of days.

For DfT specifically
Q. Why offering to refugees of Ukraine and not other countries
The reaction across the world to this war has been unprecedented in both sanctions and support, specifically regarding free travel. We are standing with the rest of Europe in offering safe refuge and travel for Ukrainian refugees.

Q. How does this work with the sponsorship scheme?
We (Government) have a proud history of supporting evacuees, and we want to be as generous as we possibly can. This scheme ensures that evacuees can arrive at their final destination for free reducing the stress of purchasing a ticket.
Q. Will this apply to sponsors meeting evacuees at the airport?
No, this will only apply to Ukrainian evacuees with a passport and a boarding pass or ticket from the last 48 hours.

Q. The Welsh Government announced yesterday that they are offering free travel to all evacuees for six-months, why haven’t you done the same?
We are offering free rail travel to a final destination in all Great Britain, this includes travel to Wales and Scotland. It is an extremely broad scheme which brings together a large number of rail companies to support evacuees as they arrive in the country.

The Welsh Government is building on an existing scheme which is likely to support smaller numbers of evacuees.

Q. Are you looking to expand the offer to other modes of transport? Not all ports have a station.
We are working at pace with the wider transport industry to see what else can be offered for evacuees arriving in the country. Several local transport companies have agreed to take part in the scheme, including bus, coach, light rail and metro.

Q. What about evacuees that arrive in Northern Ireland?
The scheme only applies to GB at present. We are working at pace with the wider transport industry to see what else can be offered for evacuees arriving in the country.
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