South Yorkshire rail protest group fears it will be made ‘a scapegoat’ for budget cuts

George Arthur , 64 (left) and Tony Nuttall, 65 (right)
George Arthur , 64 (left) and Tony Nuttall, 65 (right)
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Travel cuts protesters pushing for the return of rail travel concessions in South Yorkshire say they are worried their group will be blamed for fresh cuts.

Barnsley Retirees’ Action Group, led by pensioner protesters George Arthur and Tony Nuttall, has been heading up a long-running campaign to win back full concessions for OAPs travelling on trains.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has already reinstated travel for disabled people and for the elderly at certain times.

But the body has recently announced £7.6 million of cuts to its forthcoming budget.

George Arthur, secretary of BRAG, said he would reject any move by the PTE to blame the group for the cuts it is now having to make, after the body restored disabled concessions in the wake of BRAG pressure.

He said: “At no point did we ever say ‘give us what we want, everyone else can hang.’

“They are obviously looking for a scapegoat. I’m not sure whether or not they are trying to scapegoat us, but it would be unfair to blame BRAG for these cuts given the resources that they have.

“Even if you completely eliminate all the concessions, I think that would only save about £600,000.

“The reduction in the budget for the PTE this year is millions.”

Cuts being made by the PTE include the closure of travel centres as well as scrapping paper bus timetables and a reduction in cleaning at bus shelters, accompanied by job losses.

The savings include closing information centres at Sheffield, Meadowhall, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham.

The facility on Arundel Gate in Sheffield city centre will operate as a bus interchange only and it will be staffed by customer service assistants.

Paper timetables will also be removed to save £118,000 and a travel choices team that promotes public transport will be scrapped.

Cleaning staff at interchanges will be reduced.

Passengers will have to use self-service kiosks and up to 40 jobs could be affected in total.

A SYPTE spokesperson said: “Faced with a 10 per cent cut in the budget, SYPTE’s budget setting process has been centred on protecting both local concessionary travel and SYPTE supported bus services.

“The necessary cuts to frontline services, being made to achieve a balanced budget, have been informed by feedback from both SYPTE’s public consultation and that carried out by a community group last autumn.”

BRAG is meeting today to discuss the future of the ‘freedom ride’ campaign.