Freedom Riders protest at Barnsley and Sheffield train stations for free elderly travel

Protesters at Sheffield train station have been calling this afternoon for free bus and train travel for the elderly to be reinstated.

The South Yorkshire Freedom Riders campaign group held a rally outside Barnsley Railway Station shortly before 11am, after which they boarded the train for Sheffield.

They then protested outside Sheffield station just after noon, when speakers including Natalie Bennett addressed a crowd of around 100 people.

George Arthur, Secretary of the Freedom Riders, said he was really pleased with the protest.

“We had very good speakers and its given us the heart to keep going with the campaign,” he said.

“The fact we got so many people is a wakeup call to the council and South Yorkshire travel, particularly given the fact that they have the money to pay for what we’re asking for.”

He added the protest showed the strength in unity and that the group’s objectives could be met if people come together.

One of the protesters

The protest is now in its third year. The first was held in June 2014 after free travel for the elderly on South Yorkshire Public transport was restricted in March that year.

The elderly can still travel for free on buses between 9.30am and 11pm. They can no longer travel for free on trains.

Free local train travel is currently available to the elderly in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Merseyside, and the West Midlands.

London provides over-60s with a freedom pass for local trains, ferries and Underground services.

A spokesperson for the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive said they had no plans to reinstate unrestricted free travel for the elderly.

“Reserve savings achieved by the Executive are used to sustain activity that could otherwise be affected by budget cuts and to mitigate further impact on public transport services,” they said.

It comes as four officers were placed under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission for their handling of the protest in 2014.

One officer will answer to claims of gross misconduct and the other three of misconduct after two protesters, both in their 60s, were arrested at the protest.

The charges of obstruction and fare evasion were dropped that December.