‘Freedom riders’ vow to continue fare cut protests

David Young, deputy interim director general at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
David Young, deputy interim director general at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
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Campaigners have vowed to keep on using their free travel passes - despite the concessionary scheme ending.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) stopped funding concessionary travel for older people and the disabled on April 1 in an attempt to save £629,000 in the face of budget cuts.

Defiant protestors, rallied by Barnsley Retirees Action Group (BRAG), have since taken part in four ‘Freedom Rides’, refusing to pay for train fare before gathering at Meadowhall Interchange for a rally.

At the latest on Tuesday, protestors claim they were told by Network Rail it would be the last time they would be allowed on trains without paying - but they intend on going ahead with a further protest on Monday.

BRAG spokseman Tony Nuttall said: “The campaign is gathering momentum, and on Tuesday more than 120 people took part.

“We know we are in the right on this issue. Concessionary travel is key to disabled and older people being able to get out and be part of the community.”

SYPTE Deputy Interim Director General, David Young, said the “regrettable” cuts bring South Yorkshire in line with nationally funded bus and rail schemes. The alterative, he said, was to cut bus services, leaving some without access to public transport.

He said: “We respect people’s rights to hold a peaceful protest and to share their views. The safety of our passengers and staff remains our priority. However, we would also expect people to travel with a valid ticket and advise that people stay within the law at all times.

“Barnsley Retirees Action Group made representation at the March South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority meeting, at which requests to review this approach were declined by Members. SYPTE’s budget has now been cut and there are no plans, or funding, to reverse the decision.”

l A new discount card offers 16-18 year olds 20 per cent off bus fares in Hull, East Yorkshire and North Yorkshire.

East Yorkshire Motor Services’ Go Card, is similar to London Oyster Cards and can be topped up with credit, with an automatic discount. Apply online at www.eyms.co.uk.