South Yorkshire Freedom Riders: Mayor Coppard could follow Manchester in bringing in yearly £10 pass for unlimited pensioner train travel

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A campaign group has once again called on politicians to bring back free rail travel for pensioners going around South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire Freedom Riders representative George Arthur called on newly-elected mayor Oliver Coppard to reinstate the policy after it was scrapped back in 2014.

South Yorkshire could follow Manchester’s lead and introduce a £10 card for pensioners to travel around on regional rail services after 9.30am.

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The group was formed when plans for free train travel across South and West Yorkshire were due to be taken away from elderly and disabled pass holders in March 2014.

South Yorkshire Freedom Riders at a demonstration outside Sheffield railway station.South Yorkshire Freedom Riders at a demonstration outside Sheffield railway station.
South Yorkshire Freedom Riders at a demonstration outside Sheffield railway station.

Disabled pass holders won all rights back but pensioners only gained partial concessions.

Campaigners George Arthur and Tony Nuttall, both in their 60s at the time, were arrested and charged with obstruction and fare evasion after a protest at Sheffield railway station. The charges were dropped later that year.

Mr Arthur again called SYMCA to reintroduce the popular policy and said scrapping free travel at the time saved only £329,000 but was worth more in health benefits for older people.

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Mr Coppard said he was willing to meet with the group again to discuss the proposals, including an option for pensioners to buy a yearly card, similar to one in Greater Manchester where those over 65 pay £10 per annum to travel on trains around the region for free.

South Yorkshire mayor Oliver CoppardSouth Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard
South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard

Campaigners also pointed out that free regional travel on services across Merseyside and the West Midlands were still free for pensioners.

Mr Arthur said: “We’re asking why can’t we have that reinstituted in South and West Yorkshire.

“It seems that the benefits for people would be really great … but everything’s compartmentalised in different boxes so the people sitting in here will be looking at the finances for the MCA, but not considering the cost on social care and the cost on hospitals.

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“It seems to me, we need to start having a more generalised view of how saving money in one area actually produces quite large increases elsewhere.

George Arthur from South Yorkshire Freedom RidersGeorge Arthur from South Yorkshire Freedom Riders
George Arthur from South Yorkshire Freedom Riders

“So I’m not just asking for the benefit of elderly people. I think it would make an overall saving to the public purse.”

Mr Coppard said: “I want our public transport network to be absolutely fit for purpose, accessible and affordable for everybody.

“The combined authority has previously considered the reinstatement of the free rail travel for elderly concession pass holders and at that time concluded that is unaffordable in the current financial climate.

“We do however, continue to examine options, including an annual payment, which I know is one of the options that has been mentioned.”