‘Freedom riders’ press for a new travel deal

Scores of pensioners gathered together to board a train to Meadowhall as part of their freedom ride campaign - a protest against the removal of their travel passes, but were thwarted in their efforts by Barnsley Railway Station staff and British Transport Police. Our picture shows them making their way towards Barnsley Town Hall from the railway station.
Scores of pensioners gathered together to board a train to Meadowhall as part of their freedom ride campaign - a protest against the removal of their travel passes, but were thwarted in their efforts by Barnsley Railway Station staff and British Transport Police. Our picture shows them making their way towards Barnsley Town Hall from the railway station.

Elderly and disabled campaigners rallying against cuts to concessionary transport in South Yorkshire are hoping for a breakthrough after seeing their latest ‘freedom ride’ blocked by police and rail staff.

They were stopped yesterday (Wednesday) from getting on trains in Barnsley and riding free to Meadowhall in their sixth weekly demonstration. Now their hopes are pinned on a meeting today with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which introduced the cuts to help save £629,000 a year.

After British Transport Police and rail staff prevented non-ticket holders getting on the Meadowhall train, up to 100 protesters held a demonstration outside the station entrance.

One protester, Tim Jones, of Stannington, who has bipolar disorder, said: “I can’t access medical services because of these cuts. They say funds are under threat but then put on all these people to stop us. It is just outrageous.”

Jennifer Bush, of Gleadless, said the demonstration was a ‘peaceful and completely legal process’ rather than individuals ‘skipping fares’.

Northern Rail declined to comment on the cost. A spokesman said the operator respected the right to peaceful protest and understood the disappointment about the withdrawal of concessionary travel, but travelling on trains without a ticket was ‘breaking the law.’

SYPTE scrapped locally-funded concessionary rail travel for pensioners and disabled people from April 1. It also scaled back free weekday travel on buses and trams to between 9.30am and 11pm.