Rail industry and charities join forces to tackle street homelessness with new Rough Sleeping on Rail Charter: Andrew Haines, Grant Shapps and Charlie Doyle signing homelessness charter

Thursday 8 Oct 2020

Rail industry and charities join forces to tackle street homelessness with new Rough Sleeping on Rail Charter

Region & Route:
  • Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, transport secretary Grant Shapps and BTP assistant chief constable Charlie Doyle commit to tackling street homelessness as first signatories of new charter
  • Network Rail to work with five charity partners as part of Routes out of Homelessness initiative, including fundraising, events, additional support and pilot outreach scheme in stations
  • Murals unveiled at Network Rail stations to mark the occasion ahead of World Homeless Day on Saturday 10th October

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines was joined by transport secretary Grant Shapps and British Transport Police assistant chief constable Charlie Doyle to sign the first pan-industry homelessness charter at London Paddington station as part of a wide-reaching programme of efforts to support a route out of homelessness for every person sleeping rough around the rail network.

The Government is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good – that’s why the rail industry is to play its part by introducing a charter setting out how it will help safeguard vulnerable people and communities.  

This includes working closely together with charities to create bespoke plans and training for station staff so they can give the right advice and support to people sleeping rough around the railway.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said:

“We know that homelessness is a real problem and many vulnerable people are drawn to the rail network. We are committed to working with communities and charities to improve how we work together to address the challenges involved in supporting some of the country's most marginalised people.”         

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said:

“Everybody should have the safety, comfort and security of a home. For those sleeping rough in our railway stations, particularly as we approach winter, life can be cold, challenging and uncertain.

“This new charter demonstrates the rail industry is committed to taking meaningful action. Having helped take StreetLink online with the popular app as Housing Minister, I’m delighted that it will now be used to increase reporting of rough sleeping in order to rapidly bring expert help to those who are vulnerable.

“We must fight homelessness on all fronts, and I am proud the railways are playing their part in our ultimate ambition of ending rough sleeping within this Parliament.”

Charlie Doyle, assistant chief constable at British Transport Police, said:

“Tackling homelessness on the railway and helping those in need is a very important issue to us, and we welcome this charter to galvanise the collective efforts of Industry, police and partners to support often the most vulnerable people with a route out of homelessness.

 "As part of our commitment to this cause we continue to work with industry and charitable partners to support outreach provision and our officers and staff are encouraged to use the StreetLink app in the course of their patrols. In addition I would encourage the travelling public to download and use the App to sign-post when and where they see those in need of help. This simple action may change someone’s life.”

Kelly Tolhurst, minister for rough sleeping and housing said:

“It’s vital we do everything we can to support the most vulnerable people in society – that’s why we took decisive action at the height of the pandemic to protect hundreds of lives by bringing nearly 15,000 of the most vulnerable into safe accommodation.

“I welcome the signing of this charter today, which marks an important partnership between Network Rail staff and the police to do their utmost to tackle homelessness and give support to those who need it most.

“The Government is determined to break the cycle of homelessness and end rough sleeping once and for all.”

In a change of approach to the company’s charitable endeavours, Network Rail has partnered with The Big Issue Foundation, Crisis, End Youth Homelessness, Railway Children and Shelter to focus on this important societal issue.

The national Routes out of Homelessness initiative will feature a number of events to raise awareness for the charities, as well as fundraising and a new outreach programme at stations to support the government’s ambitions to end rough sleeping.

The outreach programme is being piloted by Shelter at Manchester Piccadilly and includes new dedicated outreach teams at stations who will help offer support to those in need whilst ensuring a safe environment for them, as well as railway staff and passengers. It will also launch at Birmingham New Street in December.

Murals representing each of the charities were unveiled today at Glasgow Central, Leeds, London Charing Cross and Manchester Piccadilly to mark the occasion ahead of World Homeless Day this Saturday. A piece will also be created live by artist and Big Issue vendor John Cahill at London Paddington today (Thursday) and will be installed in Reading station’s new Assisted Travel Lounge when it opens in 2021.

Network Rail has worked to support homeless people and help fundraise for associated charities in recent years.

This includes Railway Children’s Sleepout events, hosted at stations across the country, teaming up with industry partners and charities to host Christmas Day lunches for homeless people at London Euston and Birmingham New Street, providing pitches in stations across the country for Big Issue vendors and working with charities to provide operational guidance to employees to help vulnerable people in and around Network Rail stations and infrastructure.


Notes to Editors

The Big Issue

  • The Big Issue is a social enterprise whose mission is to deliver a world that works for everyone. Creating and offering self-help and sustainable business solutions that dismantle poverty now and for future generations 
  • The Big Issue is an award-winning weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine, which offers a new hope for homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK. When vendors are able to sell, they buy magazines for £1.50 and sell to the public for £3, keeping the difference. In this way the magazine provides them with the means to earn a legitimate income. 
  • Vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face a range of issues, but all are experiencing the effects of poverty. Upon becoming a Big Issue vendor they receive training, are allocated a fixed pitch from which to vend, and must agree to adhere to a code of conduct whilst selling the magazine.
  • Since its launch in 1991, over 200 million copies of The Big Issue magazine have been sold by over 100,000 vulnerable people. 
  • For further information please go to www.bigissue.com
  • The Big Issue Foundation is an independently funded registered charity which works exclusively with Big Issue vendors, connecting them to the vital support they need to enable them to rebuild their lives and determine their own pathways to a better future. For more information go to: www.bigissuefoundation.org.uk

Railway Children

  • Railway Children is an international children’s charity, dedicated to helping vulnerable young people found on the streets and in and around transport hubs around the world.  They fight for vulnerable children who live alone and at risk on the streets, where they suffer abuse and exploitation. 
  • Railway Children work in the UK, India and East Africa to make a sustainable difference and long-term change and meet the immediate needs of children by providing protection and opportunity. 
  • Railway Children was established in 1995 and over the past 25 years have reached over 300,000 street children. 
  • Thousands of vulnerable children pass through UK railway stations every day. Most of us wouldn’t even spot that they were in danger.  

Children and young people regard railway stations as a place to go to instead of home or a place to hide, they will use trains sometimes as a means to escape, a way to run away or sometimes to meet new people. 

These vulnerable children face dangerous risks such as child sexual exploitation, trafficking and drug running. Perpetrators are determined and skilled at seeking out and befriending and grooming young vulnerable people who will then be subjected to exploitation and abuse. 


  • Shelter is the UK’s leading housing and homelessness charity and believes that everyone should have a safe home. It helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through its free emergency helpline, webchat service, and local advice, support and legal services. And it campaigns to make sure that one day no one will have to turn to Shelter for help. For free and expert housing advice visit: shelter.org.uk/get_help

End Youth Homelessness

End Youth Homelessness (EYH) is a national movement. Our mission is to end youth homelessness in the UK.

EYH brings together local charities to tackle youth homelessness on a national scale.

Each EYH charity works in its own way to meet the needs of local young people; all sharing a belief in giving homeless young people the opportunity to turn their lives around; build high aspirations and move on to successful and independent lives.

EYH works directly with over 30,000 young people who are amongst the most deprived in the UK.


EYH was founded in 2010 by EYH charity Centrepoint, after its patron, HRH the Duke of Cambridge, challenged the charity to end youth homelessness.


The charities supported through End Youth Homelessness are: 1625 Independent People (Bristol), Aberdeen Foyer (Aberdeen), The Amber Foundation (Surrey, Wiltshire, and Devon), St. Basils (West Midlands), The Benjamin Foundation (Norfolk), Centrepoint (Barnsley, Bradford, London, Manchester, and Sunderland), Llamau (Wales), The Rock Trust (Edinburgh, Glasgow), and Roundabout (Sheffield).



We work directly with thousands of homeless people every year. We provide vital help so that people can rebuild their lives and are supported out of homelessness for good. We offer one to one support, advice and courses for homeless people in 12 areas across England, Scotland and Wales. How we help someone depends on their individual needs and situation. It could be with finding a home and settling in, getting new skills and finding a job, or help with their health and wellbeing. We use research to find out how best to improve our services, but also to find wider solutions to homelessness. Together with homeless people and Crisis supporters, we campaign for the changes needed to end homelessness for good.


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