OAPs mark six-month anniversary of travel protests

Freedom riders protesting yesterday
Freedom riders protesting yesterday
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Pensioners fighting cuts to travel celebrated a ‘victory’ on the six-month anniversary of their campaign.

The Freedom Riders shared a celebratory cake after making it from Dodworth to Elsecar across Barnsley without paying for their rail fares.

On their journey they chanted ‘Northern Rail, hear us say, free train travel hear to stay’ and ‘Whose railway? Our railway’.

Their campaign has already led to a partial U-turn in the withdrawal of travel passes for disabled and elderly people.

But they continue to fight for a full return to free rail travel, rather than half price, and free bus travel at all times.

Tony Nuttall, of the Barnsley Retirees’ Action Group, said: “About 60 or 70 Freedom Riders travelled from Dodworth, to the north of Barnsley, to Elsecar, to the south, changing at Barnsley on the way.

“We demonstrated on the train and on the platform at Barnsley.

“This was a victory, as the transport police and security heavies have been trying to keep us out of the station for weeks.

“The freedom riders shared a cake celebrating six months of the campaign to win back free train travel.”

The campaigners have vowed to continue their battle until they are successful.

Hopes are high for a crunch meeting next week, when they will talk to chiefs from Northern Rail and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.

The executive and South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority made the cut from April in a bid to save 10 per cent from annual budgets.

Concessionary travel schemes were scaled back so free weekday travel on buses and trams was available only between 9.30am and 11pm, and locally-funded concessionary rail travel was scrapped to save £629,000.

Today the freedom riders will continue their campaign with a picnic in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens from 12noon. They will then lobby Sheffield Council’s full meeting in the afternoon. The rail and transport chiefs meeting is next Tuesday, September 9. Protesters hope it will ‘resolve the matter.’