Bus cuts in Sheffield and Rotherham hit OAPs and the disabled

Free buss- Yvonne Blackwell
Free buss- Yvonne Blackwell
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The elderly and the disabled are set to shoulder the burden when cuts to bus services are brought in.

South Yorkshire Transport Executive has announced plans to axe the FreeBee bus in Sheffield and Rotherham centres, and scale back concessionary travel for pensioners and disabled people from the end of April.

Grants for community transport services would also be cut - spelling a fare rise of 50p for passengers - in the bid to claw back £8.3 million from its annual budget.

The removal of the FreeBee service, which runs through the heart of the city centre six days a week, will come as a blow to traders at the newly-opened Moor Market, as it formed a key part of negotiations to move to the new building.

Passengers aboard a full FreeBee bus in Sheffield yesterday spoke of their disgust.

Regular user Yvonne Blackwell, aged 71, of Parson Cross, said: “This is full all the time. I get the bus in to town and I use it to do my shopping.

“My daughter comes and helps me, so she is going to have to pay instead.

“It’s not just pensioners, it’s mums and prams, a lot on low incomes, who rely on it to get them around.”

Sandra Dixon, of Gleadless, added: “It should stay. They should charge 10p or something instead if they have to save money. I use it all the time.”

Concessionary travel for OAPs will be scaled back by half an hour on weekday mornings. South Yorkshire is currently the only region in the UK which allows concessionary travel from 9am, but that will change to 9.30am Monday to Friday.

Mick Daniels, chairman of Brushes TARA and a former bus driver, said: “I was a bus driver for 10 years and older people would always be queuing up before nine in the morning.

“The community is desperate for better services – they shouldn’t be cut.”

Ann Bentley, 73, a member of Lower Wincobank TARA, said: “Buses round our area are few and far between. You start cutting concessionary times and people won’t be able to get around.”

Ms Bentley added: “They should be expanding the FreeBee bus service, not cutting it. I know pensioners who use the FreeBee service when they go into town to do their shopping. It drops off near the new market and stops people struggling to carry bags.”

Travel bosses say the proposals, which will be put forward to councils at a meeting of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, are necessary to avoid a hike in fares for young people and to protect other services.

Coun Mick Jameson, chairman of South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, said: “We don’t like having to cut back on services but when your budgets are being slashed there simply isn’t a great deal of choice.

“The savings have to come from somewhere.”

Travel South Yorkshire was behind the first ever FreeBee bus, launched in Sheffield city centre in October 2007.