Blind make fresh plea on Sheffield travel cuts

Protesters outside Sheffield Town Hall opposing concessionary travel cuts
Protesters outside Sheffield Town Hall opposing concessionary travel cuts
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Pleas to stop cuts to concessionary travel hitting Sheffield’s disabled people have been thrown out by city leaders.

Blind people from across the city led an appeal for the council to step in to save free bus and train travel from the axe as councillors met to formally approve a budget for the next financial year.

Under a package of money-saving measures from South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, people with disabilities will no longer be able to travel free on buses before 9.30am, and a rail pass entitling them to free travel across the region’s services will be withdrawn from April. Changes also affect concessionary travel for pensioners.

Campaigners spoke of the threat the move poses to their independence and livelihood - and called for Sheffield Council to come up with the cash to preserve current services.

Steve Hambleton, chairman of Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, said: “I am well aware the decision came from the SYITA – however that body has been put under pressure from local authorities to reduce the levy it takes from the councils.

“The impact of these cuts is going to be a strain on social services.

“Sheffield’s contribution comes to £30,000 to £35,000. Why can’t the council find the money to fund local travel concessions?”

Frank Gardener, who is completely blind and relies on the help of a guide dog, said: “I am totally blind. I have a job I have to get to before 9.30am. Using money instead of my pass makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe.”

But while the council refused to move on the decision to cut concessions, it did promise to look into making an exception for disabled children to access school.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “We do accept there are impacts and they are not desirable. Before this we had the most generous scheme outside of London, but we can’t afford to maintain it as it was.

“We cannot afford to keep these local enhancements.”