Pensioners rally against transport cuts outside Sheffield train station

Pensioners from South Yorkshire protested against the cost of bus and rail travel in the county this afternoon.

The South Yorkshire Freedom Riders assembled outside Sheffield train station at 12pm to oppose the costs for over-60s to travel in South Yorkshire, which are considerably higher than other counties.

Large metropolitan areas such as Greater London, Greater Manchester and West Midlands all have free or heavily discounted rail and bus travel for pensioners.

In response to the hike in prices by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) in 2014 the group was formed and rode the Barnsley to Sheffield bus without paying a fee.

Secretary of the group, George Arthur, said the group drew inspiration from historical events: “In America they did freedom rides in the civil rights campaign. We said lets do it to try and get our concessions back.”

The first protest took place in 2014, and was marred by violence when two members of the group were arrested by police leading to an investigation into their conduct.

Five years on from the original protest, however, there has been little concession from SYPTE, who implemented the changes.

Mr Arthur, however, is still optimistic they can achieve their goals of free transport for pensioners.

“I’ve remained hopeful all the time. Partly because the arguments that we’ve got are so logical,” he said.

“The amount of money involved is very small, there are benefits in terms of health, stopping people being in expense of the NHS for instance, and a reduction in car congestion.”

Mr Arthur went on to say they have had discussions with the Mayor of Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, who will meet the group again in the near future.

Many seemed to be expectant of the Mayor, protester, Alan Tricket, said: “He’s promised to help. Lets hope he does what he says because now he’s supposed to be in charge of South Yorkshire transport. He should be the man to help.”

The protests were mainly attended by pensioners, but some younger people also attended. Student, Aaron Challoner, was walking past the protest when he decided to join.

He drew parallels between the struggles both young and old people have when it comes to travel:

“I take the train from Doncaster to Sheffield and the prices are ridiculous, especially somewhere that’s only half and hour away by car,” he said.

“I felt quite strongly about their [the pensioners] cause and I felt quite ridiculed by what the government has been doing to us.”

In a statement, SYPTE said: “There are no plans to reverse changes to South Yorkshire’s concessionary travel arrangements while SYPTE’s funding for  public transport services to be continues to be reduced, reflecting sustained financial pressure across local government.”