Socialist Worker

Freedom riders force talks from rail bosses

by Dave Gibson
Issue No. 2417

Freedom Riders have been protesting for free train travel since March

Freedom Riders have been protesting for free train travel since March (Pic: Socialist Worker )

South Yorkshire freedom riders have seen a dramatic increase in their campaigning.

They are a group of disabled and older people fighting to win back their right to free train travel. South Yorkshire councils cut the concession from 1 April. 

The campaign has already won back free train travel for disabled people.

Campaigners organised Freedom Ride protests at Barnsley station on three mornings last week, mobilising 80, 100 and 60 people respectively.

This was followed by a campaigning stall at the South Yorkshire Festival on Saturday.

Northern Rail management block access to Barnsley station every time there is Freedom Ride protest at a cost to them of around £5,000.

Freedom riders took part in another Freedom Ride on Tuesday of this week. They have a further six planned—one on Thursday of this week, then every day next week.

The intense campaigning has put Northern Rail bosses under such pressure that they have promised talks with campaigners.

Leading campaigner George Arthur said, “We have promised to suspend Freedom Rides while talks are ongoing. 

“Northern Rail wanted us to suspend them straight away without even an agreed date for talks.

“But our mass meeting unanimously rejected that idea.”

Another campaigner, Tony Nuttall, said, “This has been a fantastic week. We never anticipated so many people would turn out day after day to protest as they have this week.

“There have been new people joining the protests including disabled people. 

“In fact many of our most active campaigners are disabled even though they have won back their free train travel.”

Campaigners have linked up with activists from the Walsall Pensioners Convention who are campaigning to defend the free bus pass for pensioners.

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