Elderly and disabled campaigners fighting travel cuts in South Yorkshire had their latest ‘freedom ride’ protest blocked today.
Defiant residents were stopped from getting on trains and riding without paying to Meadowhall by British Transport Police and rail staff at Barnsley station.
But they rallied outside the entrance, which was blocked by staff, to chant, wave placards and sing in the lively protest demonstration.
George Arthur, secretary of Barnsley Retirees Action Group, questioned the cost of blocking the protest when concessionary passes were being scaled back by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to save £629,000.
He told the crowds, to cheers of ‘shame’: “It is amazing that Northern Rail can afford to pay for so many people to be here to stop us getting on the train.”
A group of protestors from Sheffield, who did not pay, made it to the demo by train without interruption and joined the as it made its way through Barnsley town centre.
Messages of support from other groups and unions were read out at the rally.
A £50 cheque from union Aslef was also handed over.
Fran Postlethwaite, of the Barnsley Retirees Action Group, also spoke at the protest.
She said: “They want us to go away, we are not going to go away.
“We will continue what we have been fighting for since April 1.”
Northern Rail, which is in charge of the day-to-day running of Barnsley station, would not comment on the cost of stopping the protest.
A spokesman said the operator respected the right to peaceful protest and understood ‘disappointment’ about the withdrawal of concessionary travel but travelling on trains without a ticket was illegal.
British Transport Police confirmed it had sent four officers but said they were already on duty.
See The Star tomorrow for a special report.