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South Yorkshire Freedom Riders celebrate three years of fighting
Phil King, Sheffield South Socialist Party
South Yorkshire Freedom Riders celebrated our three-year anniversary on 27 March. We came together to fight against cuts to free train travel in South Yorkshire for pensioners and disabled people. Since then, by demonstrating and organising mass 'freedom rides' on trains and refusing to pay, we have won free travel for the disabled and half fare for pensioners!
There was a great turnout at the rally at Barnsley interchange, with 70 people attending. 40 boarded the train to come through to Sheffield and at the rally outside Midland station around 80 people turned up to hear some passionate speakers.
We celebrated but also looked ahead - South Yorkshire passenger transport has the money to give free train travel back to pensioners. They underspent by £2 million last year and are predicted to underspend by £1.2 million this year. That's why we'll keep on fighting - for free travel for pensioners and disabled people in South Yorkshire and beyond!
Sharron Milsom reports:
It was a great day with an excellent turnout. Over 100 took part. Pensioner and disabled members of the Freedom Riders campaign, plus other trade unionists and local people.
After a rally with trade unionists outside Barnsley interchange we made our presence felt at the railway station. The air filled with chants of "What do we want? Free train travel. When do we want it? Now!" and verses of "We shall not, we shall not be stopped... We are riding on the freedom train. We shall not be stopped!"
Our free train travel was taken away to save only £329,000, and our bus travel limited for only £300,000. Each costed little more than £1 per pass holder per year. Much of this South Yorkshire Passenger Transport has finished up paying anyway when we won our victory nearly three years ago.
Each year since then the budget for concessionary travel has been underspent - by £500,000 in 2015, then £2 million last year, and a predicted £1.2 million this year. This is enough to restore all the free train and bus travel pensioners used to enjoy for several years!
Instead the councillors are simply adding this money to reserves, more than offsetting the Tories' grant cuts, as they are unwilling to set a no-cuts budget.
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