‘Sheffield doesn’t cater for disabled people’: Furious couple slam city centre bus diversions

Do the powers-that-be push a wheelchair?

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 10:35 am

That’s the question posed by a panting June Luxon, aged 74, after pushing husband Tony in his wheelchair up from Arundel Gate to Tudor Square.

An incline that goes unnoticed by many is a significant challenge for the couple.

It is one of a series of obstacles between the new 88 bus stop and their regular destinations: the theatres and a bank and opticians in Orchard Square.

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Tudor Square has many barriers for the snooker.

The couple have teamed up with The Star for the walk, made necessary by the closure of Pinstone and Leopold streets to traffic, to allow social distancing. That led to 27 services being re-routed and new stops further out of the city centre. And it is still provoking fury from passengers almost a year on.

Previously the Luxons, who live on Bellhouse Road, Firth Park, would alight on Leopold Street outside their destination. Now it is a 15-minute walk.

The couple shelter under the canopy outside the Lyceum as it starts to rain. It is a chance for June to catch her breath.

After a few minutes the shower passes and they set off across a glistening Tudor Square which is full of barriers for the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible.

June Luxon pushes husband Tony up the incline into Tudor Square.

June catches one with the wheelchair but Tony is unhurt and they soon reach level ground on Surrey Street. After crossing Norfolk Street it is easy going, until a swathe of cobbles at the top of Fargate which must be crossed to reach their destination.

June said: “I’m told this will get me fit, but I’m fit to drop.

“You don’t realise there are lots of little inclines and obstacles in Sheffield. Do the powers that be push a wheelchair? They only care about the fit and healthy. Sheffield doesn’t cater for disabled people.

“My health is pretty good now, but in a couple of years it might not be.”

Taking shelter in an old bus shelter on Pinstone Street, which is now traffic-free.

The road closures have also sparked protests from businesses who say it will cost them trade. As well as Arundel Gate, bus stops have been moved to Carver Street and Rockingham Street up to a quarter of a mile away.

June added: “If it stays like this we won’t come to town as much.”

Tony, aged 79, added: “They are shutting down town.”

It was the former steelworker’s first trip into the city after shielding for more than a year and only June’s second. Now, both have had two jabs and feel safe.

June and Tony Luxon at their start point on the far side of Arundel Gate.

But the bus situation stands in their way.

They buy a hot chocolate from Greggs and sit on a bench in the Peace Gardens until rain threatens again and they move into an old bus shelter on Pinstone Street.

Now it is just a shelter, although if the road closures are made permanent, as seems likely under the £10m Connecting Sheffield ‘active travel’ scheme, they will probably be removed.

June added: “It’s all right if you can cycle, but our cycling days have gone. I've spoken to people and no one knows about these changes, I think it has been done underhand.”

Last month, June says she emailed 78 Sheffield councillors challenging them to push her husband from Arundel Gate to Orchard Square. Although (only) eight replied, none took her up on it.

In December Matthew Reynolds, transport planning and infrastructure manager at Sheffield City Council, said accessibility of the new bus stops 'kept him awake at night’.

Sheltering from the rain at the Lyceum.

He told a scrutiny meeting: "The bus stop accessibility is the part which is a concern and keeps me awake at night as it's bus passengers who feel it the most.

"We try to put bus stops in the places where people want to get to the most but the city centre has changed. There's a shift, the retail core is moving and is in a tricky transition phase from Fargate to the Moor."

Sheffield City Council has been contacted for comment.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.

Orchard Square, a few yards from their old bus stop.