Sheffield City Region Mayor's response to train travel query criticised as 'bizarre' and 'smoke and mirrors'
A train campaigner has criticised Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis over an ‘absolutely odd’ and ‘bizarre’ response to a query.
Mike Smith asked Mr Jarvis if he would consider introducing a ‘Gold Card’ train travel discount scheme for pensioners, similar to one in the North East.
Yet the lengthy response appeared to completely avoid the question.
Mr Smith is a ‘Freedom Rider’ campaigning for the reinstatement of free train travel for pensioners, axed by a Labour-dominated transport committee eight years ago.
He recently suggested Sheffield City Region consider introducing a scheme similar to the Metro Gold Card which costs £12-a-year and gives pensioners a year’s travel on Metro, the Shields Ferry and on Northern Rail services between Newcastle and Sunderland.
A Freedom of Information request revealed it generates £900,000 a year and is ‘self-financing’, he added.
Mayor Jarvis agreed two years ago to investigate the scheme, yet since then Freedom Riders have been ‘met with silence’, Mr Smith claims.
And his most recent response was ’absolutely odd but typical smoke and mirrors’.
He added: “Here’s a cost-free solution to an eight-year impasse. So why the silence Mayor Jarvis? Why not action? Why not improve and ease lives instead of making them harder?”
When asked about the Metro Gold Card for pensioners, a Sheffield City Region spokesperson, said: “We’re continually looking at how we can support passengers through a range of concessionary support schemes.
“Recently we’ve invested more than £6million in the next year to extend support for young people aged between 11 and 21 with the introduction of the Zoom Beyond pass.
“We also have a number of concessionary support schemes on offer for the elderly including a 50 per cent discount on Northern Rail and extending ENCTS to our Supertram network.
“Throughout the pandemic we have worked hard to ensure that services remain in place for key workers, essential journeys and to ensure there is a bus network to return to once restrictions ease.
“We have supported services through continued concessionary payments to operators and are investing more than £3.2million in electric buses, have put public transport front and centre in our £50million Levelling Up bid to government and are investing in new bus shelters and digital screens to improve the passenger journey.
“In recent weeks, we’ve also announced that we intend to enter into an Enhanced Partnership with our operators which will enable us to work together to deliver a better transport system for communities across South Yorkshire.”
Mr Smith responded: “I can’t force the Mayor to implement the concession, a concession which he acknowledged shouldn’t have been withdrawn, but I can argue that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
“What I won’t let him get away with is not explaining why he’s so set against restoring the full concession in an area of deprivation and with so many health problems caused by heavy industry and poverty. If he doesn’t want it so be it - but we deserve to know why not.”
Previously, he suggested Mr Jarvis was digging in to avoid Labour ‘losing face’. But it meant South Yorkshire was the only place in England with an established elected Mayor without such a concession, curtailing the lives of an estimated 250,000 pensioners.