In 2006 a national bus pass scheme was introduced for the elderly. Anyone over 60 could use a bus between 9.30am and 11pm for free. This was recognition that Britain had one of the lowest pension schemes in Europe and that encouraging elderly people to get out and about would be good for their health (decreasing stress on the NHS).
Local areas were allowed to add on extra concessions, which many did.
South Yorkshire extended the concessions to run from 9am all day and also allowed free train travel on trains in South Yorkshire and into West Yorkshire. They also gave this concession to disabled pass holders.
Early in 2014 it was discovered the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive were planning to end all extra concessions from the end of March. Barnsley Retirees Action Group, a small pensioners group, leafleted the bus and train stations for a week to build support for their campaign to save the concessions. On 1 March 2014 over 300 people turned up to the group’s first meeting and the ‘South Yorkshire Freedom Riders’ were formed.
The Freedom Riders continue their fight for free local train travel for all pensioners. They regularly address meetings of the Passenger Transport Authority explaining their concerns and putting forward proposals (including the demand that they should spend their accumulated budget to restore free train travel in South and West Yorkshire, so pensioners have the same concessions as disabled people as was formerly the case).
The Freedom Riders have had meetings with bus operators which have led to some additional concessions such as free travel to hospital appointments before 9.30am on Stagecoach, and travel before 9.30am for a £1 flat fare on TM Travel. Meetings with FirstBus to gain the same concessions are ongoing.
Arriva has won the franchise from Northern Rail and they have agreed to meet the Freedom Riders soon.
We have launched a national petition calling for all pensioners in England to have the right to free local train travel with their bus pass (as is the case in London, Merseyside, West midlands and Greater Manchester). An online version is on 38 degrees at https://t.co/LTHY1gzH2s
The Freedom Riders meet every two weeks on Thursday morning at 11.00am at Barnsley Library. All meetings are open to everyone.
You can contact the group on Facebook (Fight Travel Cuts in South Yorkshire), by email to email@example.com or phone 07985028003.