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Freedom Riders- action brings victory
South Yorkshire's Freedom Riders have won a victory in our campaign to get back our travel concessions. For the last six weeks groups of elderly and disabled protesters from Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham - always over 100 in total - have held a weekly Freedom Ride.
We have been travelling on local trains without buying tickets, and each time meeting up for a rally. The campaign has gained national support from rail unions Aslef and RMT and the Bakers and Allied Food Workers' Union (BAFWU).
On 7 May a delegation of campaigners met with the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive after being invited - but the SYPTE had no proposals to put forward. Yet the next morning it was announced on the radio that disabled people's concessions are to be completely restored. The proposals say we will again be entitled, as before 31 March, to free rail travel in South and West Yorkshire and to free travel on buses and trams at any time.
But the proposal for elderly people is only a partial victory. Holders of Senior Citizen passes would be entitled to travel for half fare on trains, on weekdays limited to between 9.30am and 11pm, with free travel on buses and trams still being limited to these times.
In announcing the proposals, the leader of Barnsley's Labour council has said that they were 'not a result of people who have been breaking the law' by going on freedom rides. Neither apparently are the proposals anything to do with the judicial review filed on behalf of two disabled people as, according to the SYPTE, it's all been a question of listening to customer feedback.
The idea that these concessions would have been put forward without the fightback by elderly and disabled people is laughable. Certainly everyone I've told about this so far has laughed!
The transport committee of the new Sheffield City Region Combined Authority will need to agree the proposals on 19 May. Protesters will still be holding a demo in Barnsley on Saturday 17 May at which there will be a vote on whether to consider the campaign a victory or whether there should be further freedom rides.
In The Socialist 14 May 2014:
Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns