As on many past occasions (Hillsborough, Orgreave) police in South Yorkshire have once again worked against the human rights of UK citizens today (7th May). Over 100 people who were joining the 6th ‘The Freedom Ride’ (1) were prevented from entering Barnsley railway station and exercising their Article 11 human right to peaceful protest, instead being turned away from what is supposed to be a public facility by police and station staff. People from across South Yorkshire have been taking direct action to overturn the decision by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to remove the right to free travel for all concession holders on South Yorkshire trains(2); the legality of this decision is currently being challenged in the courts (3).
Action takers from Sheffield and Doncaster later travelled by train, refusing to pay or show their passes in protest at the decision by councillors in South Yorkshire to axe their right to free train travel, and joined the peaceful action outside Barnsley train station.
Although South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive point to a £300,000 budget cut for their narrow vote to remove concessionary travel on South Yorkshire trains, David Kirkham (UKUncut Sheffield) said:
“SYPTE say they can no longer afford concessionary travel for disabled people and older people on South Yorkshire trains. These concessions are a lifeline for people in South Yorkshire, one of the most deprived areas of the country with the lowest average income. People rely on the concessions to get to work, reach medical appointments and to travel to places of education. The claim that concessions are unaffordable on trains in South Yorkshire sits ill with the fact that the chief operator of trains in South Yorkshire, Northern Rail, made £40.1m profit on the back of inflation busting fare rises, according to latest available figures (4) Northern Rail are also part owned by Serco and Dutch national rail operator Abellio; Serco received billions in public subsidy each year (5) for government contracts and have also been accused of defrauding the taxpayer over their prison contracts. A company that already makes huge profits on the back of profiteering from the tax payer and shifting profits out of the country to The Netherlands, which refuses to disclose how much public money goes into the pockets of shareholders and directors has a hard time convincing people it cannot afford to allow people for whom its trains are a vital lifeline to travel on them for free.”
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(1) The Freedom Ride 6 https://www.facebook.com/events/284100701751065/?fref=ts
(2) Axe set to fall on free train travel for old folk across South Yorkshire. http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/business/axe-set-to-fall-on-free-train-travel-for-old-folk-across-south-yorkshire-1-6416945
(3) South Yorkshire Legal Challenge to SYPTE http://www.bing.com/search?q=south+yorkshirew++legal+challenge+to+SYPTE&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=south+yorkshirew+legal+challenge+to+sypte&sc=0-0&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=9de6400f2ca24739a9450b3a6f050e6d
(4) Northern Rail, which this week introduced inflation-busting fare rises for passengers, saw annual profits surge by 34 per cent last year, most recent accounts reveal. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/business-news/northern_rail_puts_profits_up_by_34_per_cent_1_4114849
(5) Sick of Serco? Join the protest with We Own It on 8 May http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/sick-of-serco-join-the-protest-with-we-own-it-on-8-may