Category: Freedom Ride

Message from George

Hi all Freedom Ride supporters.

Happy New Year to everyone (we can always hope!)

A reminder that our next planning meeting is this Thursday 15th January 11am Barnsley Library.

The Passenger Transport Executive have begun the New Year with customary arrogance.

In spite of a brilliant Freedom Ride lobby of 40 outside their meeting last Monday and good arguments put forward by Tony they ignored all the evidence from our consultation last year.

It is true that they backed off from cutting our concessions any more this year which shows they knew that would have created mass protests.

But they have not met any of our suggestions about how to look for a compromise and they have made cuts which affect everyone. The ending of printed timetables will be a serious concern to all those who have no access to the internet which includes many elderly. The cutting of cleaning facilities at the interchanges and bus stops will make the travelling experience worse for all of us.

On Thursday we can look at plans for the Freedom Rides this year. Apart from still campaigning about the train travel a number of people have suggested issues around bus travel, particularly looking at the issue of not being able to use passes until 9.30am.

Finally, thanks to those who turned out at stations on January 5th to leaflet against the train fare increases as part of the national campaign. 35 stations were leafleted around the country. People everywhere are starting to stand up for better treatment on public transport across the country.

Hope to see many of you on Thursday,


Justice for freedom riders

As the charges against two pensioners are dropped, South Yorkshire’s freedom riders are more determined than ever to win back their travel passes.

Unite Live – Rae Passfield, Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Protestors, George Arthur, 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, were arrested in June for obstructing police and fare evasion at Sheffield station during a rally against the axing of travel concessions for the elderly and disabled.

They were due to be trialled at Sheffield magistrates’ court on December 8 but the crown prosecution decided not to continue with the case due to a lack of evidence.

“My initial reaction was a great deal of relief,” Arthur said. “Tony and I faced a possible prison sentence, hefty fines and prosecution costs of tens of thousands of pounds, so it was a massive relief when the charges were dropped.”

Despite his relief, Arthur admitted to feeling a little cheated by the decision.

“The things that they had put in their statement were ridiculous and completely untrue,” he continued. “So in that respect I do feel a sense of anger that the case has been dropped – I would have really liked to have seen their lies shown up in court.”

The freedom riders had organized a protest on the day of the trial, but once the charges were dropped, they decided to turn it into a victory rally instead.

More than 150 people attended the rally, and after making a lot of noise outside the court, they marched on to Sheffield train station and interchange.

So far the freedom riders have won full reinstatement of the disabled travel pass and a partial reinstatement of the pensioner pass.

But the fight is far from over.

“It just shows how determined people are to keep the campaign going,” Arthur said. “It’s really impressive. We’re talking nine months now since the campaign started and people are still fired up and prepared to carry on protesting.”

“The protesters are going to continue until we get full travel reinstated,” said Unite community coordinator for South Yorkshire Joe Rollin.

“They’re not giving up and we expect to continue protesting in January,” he added.

“We have justice on our side,” Arthur said. “And we know that we need to fight in order to make sure things don’t get any worse.”

“We have begun to see ourselves as part of a much wider movement against railway privatisation and will be taking part in the nationwide protest against the fare increases on January 5th,” he added.

The privatisation of Britain’s public transport was recently criticized by the shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher.

He described the rushed franchising process as a “betrayal of taxpayers and the travelling public” and said “David Cameron has put privatisation ahead of the public interest.”

But Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths – who earned £2.2m last year – said pensioner travel concessions was bad for business, and compared it to Tesco giving OAPs free food.

“I won’t provide a service and not get properly paid for it,” Griffiths said. “For the management effort my team put in, we get underpaid.”

Arthur rejected Griffiths’ comments, arguing they were reflective of the ideology of privatisation.

“[Griffiths’] comments really show how the privatised companies are operating,” Arthur said. “Hoarding money at the top at the expense of providing decent services.”

“We’re optimistic that we will win the fight, yes,” he continued. “Though a better word might be ‘determined’.”

The original Freedom Riders

The video shows the Story of the original Freedom Riders on America in the 1960’s incredibly moving and inspirational please watch and share!!!! We shall not be stopped!!!!!

From the Freedom Riders

Hi All,

Monday’s lobby outside Sheffield Court gave us the sweet smell of victory.

Well over 100 turned up including many trade unionists with their trade union banners. The atmosphere was one of excitement and jubilation.

After the lobby we marched through the centre of Sheffield and down to the train station. Then we decided to go and introduce ourselves to the British Transport Police at their office on platform 1 and to demand an apology for their behaviour. Unfortunately none of them came out to meet us. Perhaps they were feeling shy.

Following a rally on the platform, which got applause from passengers throughout the station, a number of us boarded a train and had a freedomride to Meadowhall.

Please try to come to our meeting this Friday 12th at 11am Barnsley library where we will plan out events for the new year. There will also be some of our new t-shirts celebrating two victories in our campaign on sale – might be the perfect Christmas present!

On the following Monday 15th we have the lobby of the Transport Committee on Regent Street Barnsley at 1pm followed by our Christmas party in the YMCA with food and music.

And at the party you will be able to hear the first public performance of this song:

Thanks for all the support given to Tony and myself in the lead up to the (abandoned) court case.

All the best,

Here are a few photos from the protest at Sheffield Interchange.

Message of Solidarity to Freedom Riders

Ged Dempsey
Wath upon Dearne


I am disappointed that owing to being at a union conference, that was arranged months ago, I can not be with you this time to celebrate this massive victory for this magnificiant campaign that has grabbed the attention of our Movement and country.

The campaign has been fantastic and is a justification for fighting for free travel for the elderly and disabled who have paid into the big pot all their lives. Concessionary travel should be extended to cover the unwaged and low paid too.

As we know, it was not the elderly, disabled, unemployed or workers that caused the mess that lead to austerity.

Instead it was the madcap casino economics of the so called political elite and the vested interests and greed of fatcats, bankers and big business.

They have returned to business, as usual, whilst the rest of us as victims pay the price and face ever more swingeing cuts and get shafted!

This result is a vindication of the courage and solidarity by the freedom riders.

That standing together and being counted does work.

That not “kow towing” to the brutal force and thuggery of the state works for our class.

That the transport police and those behind the brutal attacks and manipulation should be put in the dock to face justice.

We have been proud and honoured to stand with you in this valiant struggle.

On behalf of our GPM comrades within the Print Sector, the General Secretary & Chair of Unite and all the Executive Council we salute you.

In Solidarity

Bro Ged Dempsey
Member of Unite EC

Seconds out, round three!

10822594_751459111602080_1951433753_nRound 1 was getting the cuts to diasbled passes completely 100% overturned.

Round 2 was the charges against Tony and George were thrown out of court.

Round 3 will be the reinstatement of the Freedom Rides unless the local Transport people reinstate the pensioners free train travel!

The t-shirts should be available at the Freedom Ride victory celebration.

Charges dropped against arrested Sheffield rail protest OAPs

This article by Alex Evan originally appeared in The Star.

Charges against two rail cuts protesters aged in their 60s who were arrested at Sheffield Railway Station have been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS confirmed to The Star that charges of obstructing police and fare evasion against Tony Nuttall and George Arthur will no longer be taken to trial.

The ‘Freedom Riders’ from Barnsley Retirees Action Group were arrested on June 23 during protests against cuts to travel passes for elderly and disabled people.

The pair, aged 65 and 64, were handcuffed, arrested and bundled away by British Transport Police officers – prompting outrage from Sheffield Disabled People Against The Cuts and BRAG.

A video showing Mr Arthur being arrested by a group of officers and security guards went viral online.

Comments on The Star’s website accused officers of being ‘heavy handed’ in the way they dealt with the protesters.

Tony Nuttall was charged with obstructing a police officer and George Arthur with obstruction and fare evasion.

The pair had been due to face trial at Sheffield Magistrates Court on December 8.

Mr Nuttall said he felt ‘relieved’, and that the Freedom Riders campaign will continue to protest against cuts to rail passes for the elderly.

He said: “I personally feel very relieved but I think more than that, I feel pleased for the travel pass campaign.

“It’s not the final victory but I think this will be a real boost to the campaign.

“People at our meeting were elated.”

Mr Nuttall said himself and Mr Arthur have filed formal complaints against British Transport Police for the way the pair were arrested.

The BRAG protest organised for the date of the trial will now be changed to a ‘celebration’ of the charges being dropped, he said, with transport being laid on across South Yorkshire.

That will be followed by the group lobbying the next meeting of the South Yorkshire Transport Committee on December 15 at Regent Street, Barnsley, and again on January 5.

The ‘Freedom Rides’ which involve protesters travelling on trains across the region without paying as a form of protest, had been put on hold while Mr Arthur and Mr Nuttall faced trial.

But Mr Nuttall said the rides could re-start in January if the group is unsuccessful at getting free travel for the elderly reinstated.

He added: “This is another win for the freedom riders in our on-going battle. We won round one in June when we got back free travel for disabled people and half-price on the train for older people.

“Now we have won round two.

“Round three is coming up and we intend to keep on fighting as hard as we can.

“We are not going to do any freedom rides at the moment.

“But If the Transport Committee and the Combined Authority do not give us a commitment to reinstating free train travel by January, then we will re-start the freedom rides.”

Travel pass campaign update

Join lobby at Sheffield Magistrates Court 9am December 8 to defend Tony and George. Coach from Barnsley at 8.15am.

The date of the court case is now rapidly approaching. Support for the rally outside the Magistrates Court is building and we need to re-double our efforts to make it as big as possible.

We had a great day leafleting for the rally in Doncaster last Monday. More than 20 of us turned up and we got a good reception from the people of Doncaster.

The next leafleting sessions are now:

Monday, 24th November, 11.30am, meet at the Transport Interchange In Rotherham. If you are going from Barnsley, there is a 22 bus leaving stand 19 at 10.20 that arrives in Rotherham at 11.22.

Monday, 1st December, 11.30am, meet at the Bus Station in Sheffield.

Friday, 5th December, 11.30am, meet at Barnsley Bus Station (a previous email said that this was going to be on Thursday 4th. This was a mistake – it is definitely Friday 5th.)

A reminder that there is free transport from Barnsley down to the rally on Monday, 8th December, leaving Barnsley at 8.15am. We now have over 50 booked. If you want to go down on the free transport from Barnsley, please reply by email or ring Tony Nuttall on 0775 883 6854.

We also now have a free coach going from Doncaster and stopping on the way at Rotherham. This is a great opportunity to get as many people as possible there from Doncaster and Rotherham. Further details will be circulated as soon as possible.

Our next open Freedom Rider meeting will be next Friday, 28th November, at 11.00am in Barnsley Library. I hope we can get a really big turn-out so that we can plan for the court rally and to continue our campaign.

To finish, here is the text of a letter that Ged Dempsey, a print worker, has sent to the newspapers. It shows how our campaign is getting wide support, including from industrial workers. Let’s continue to build! Unity is strength!


The South Yorkshire Freedom Rider campaigners deserve the praise and recognition for standing up and fighting for the rights of vulnerable people and public transport with their peaceful protests.

Not only should there be affordable and accessible public transport but its right it should be free and concessionary for the elderly and disabled.

Northern Rail have used the police and private security to defend their action. How much has this cost?

The Condem austerity frenzy and funding restrictions are the root cause of this odious cutback although it was backward and not a progressive or enlightened step in the south yorkshire councils who made or defended the decision to to axe the funding.

It was politicians, bankers, casino economics and corporate greed that caused the deficit not the public. Yet again its us that pay the price whilst they return to business as usual!

The police have blocaded station platforms and kettled, yes kettled elderly people including the blind and disabled.

It is perverse that two of the voluntary group, retired Ton Nuttall and George Arthur,  find themselves in Crown court next month when it was them who were attacked by the brutality of transport police – attacking a peaceful protest and vulnerable people.

The freedom riders have been supported nationwide. The train company’s and police Action has again shamed our area across the world – in denying people the right to peacefully protest and defend their rights.

Their are plenty of footage on the interenet and on you tube for readers to view.

I urge people to protest to their MPs and  council in supporting the south yorkshire freedom riders and the above campaigners who are in the dock.

That we have free travel for the elderly and disabled who have paid into the big pot for a lifetime.

In solidarity
Ged Dempsey
Print worker”

More on this story here.