Sheffield campaigners in plea for U-turn

Steve Hambleton
Steve Hambleton
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Disability campaigners in Sheffield want a review into the scrapping of travel concessions for vulnerable people.

The Sheffield branch of the Royal Society for the Blind is leading the fight for a U-turn over a decision to axe free train travel and change eligibility for free bus services for pensioners and people with disabilities.

From April 1, concessions will no longer apply on journeys made before 9.30am under cost-savings measures approved by the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority.

Charities and organisations have warned of the severe impact on thousands of people with visual impairment.

Steve Hambleton, manager of Sheffield’s RSB, said: “The removal of free travel on trains will result in blind and partially-sighted people struggling to purchase tickets at the railway station due to the station’s move towards automatic ticket machines that are totally inaccessible to people with sight problems.

“In order to purchase tickets they therefore have to find assistance from station staff which is not always quickly available.

“This all causes additional stress and anxiety, again removing their dignity.

“Sheffield has always had an excellent reputation throughout the country for the high quality of service provision for blind and partially-sighted people.

“We appreciate that there are severe financial pressures, but does Sheffield really want all of its services for blind and partially-sighted people to be eroded to the absolute minimum, destroying decades of hard work by many organisations in the city, just to save a relatively tiny amount of money?”

Campaigners have written to local MPs and Sheffield Council arguing the SYITA failed to carry out effective public consultation before the decision was made.

They have called for a return to the drawing board, with an Equalities Impact Assessment carried out before the changes are implemented.