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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 May 2014

Freedom riders on a storm

A freedom rider

Elderly and disabled people in South Yorkshire are still catching trains and refusing to pay. We've now held five 'Freedom Ride' protests against the withdrawal of our free train travel and restriction of our bus and tram concessions by mainly Labour councillors on the Integrated Transport Authority (ITA).

Each week groups of protesters catch trains in Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Mexborough, travelling to meet at Meadowhall. Over 100 take part every time, with attendances recently increasing, so any ITA hopes that protests would fizzle out proved unfounded.

At the fourth Freedom Ride, Barnsley protesters, by far the biggest group, were told by the Northern Rail manager that there would be no more free travel. Next week they would be made to pay. But no one was put off. Freedom Ride 5 was the biggest yet!

Blockade

Police organised a blockade, physically preventing Barnsley protesters from catching the train to Meadowhall. But they failed to stop the protest. Instead of going home, around 85 elderly and disabled people crossed the bridge to the other platform. Just in time to catch a train with 17 of us from Sheffield already on as we'd been tipped off by phone.

Over 100 of us went on a scenic ride out to Penistone, waving at the police as the train pulled out. In addition, another 30 travelled free from Doncaster and Mexborough to Meadowhall.

Aslef, the train drivers' union, is supporting the campaign. It's featured on their national website and they gave a donation. Their vice-president addressed the Freedom Ride 3 rally. Also, Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre are taking the issue to judicial review on behalf of two disabled clients on the grounds that the ITA failed to comply with the Equality Act 2010. Councillors are looking at the cost of defending the action.

The annual saving resulting from these cuts is only 629,000 between trains, buses and trams and across South Yorkshire. With 265,000 senior citizen and disabled pass holders that's 2.37 each a year or less than 5p a pass holder a week. Our mobility is being restricted for such a small amount of money. That's the outcome of Labour councillors being unwilling to fight Con-Dem cuts to council funding.

Protesters' persistence has resulted in South Yorkshire Passenger Transport inviting a delegation of campaigners to meet them on 8 May. But the day before that we have Freedom Ride 6! We will be claiming our free rail travel yet again.

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In The Socialist 7 May 2014:


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Fight cuts, Back strikes, Vote TUSC

More local news coverage for TUSC, but BBC downplays council elections

Join the TUSC Thunderclap

Defend the right to campaign

Why I'm standing for TUSC

Housing crisis: TUSC candidates demand socialist policies

Election appeal 2014 - 4,278 raised so far


Socialist Party feature

Prepare for almighty battles against austerity


International socialist news and analysis

$15: Seattle shows what a movement can achieve


Socialist Party news and analysis

Schools - Would things get better under Labour?

Private sector rents and Labour

Care homes abuse scandals

Pfizer takeover bid

Them & Us


Socialist Party workplace news

RMT forces London Underground to back down

Striking against Land Registry cuts

Care UK workers start 14 days of strike action

CWU conference - time to build Broad Left

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

We can scrap zero-hour contracts

No support for zero-hour contracts

RMT turns out in strength for May Day march

May Day rallies in Swansea and Ipswich

Battling the cuts: when push comes to shove

Freedom riders on a storm

Leeds protest against privatisation of student loans


 

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