People who use the trains in Cornwall have spoken of the human cost if all of the remaining ticket offices in stations across the Duchy are closed.

A number of residents believe it would be “discriminatory” against elderly and disabled travellers if they had to rely on using self-service ticket machines.

Great Western Railway (GWR) announced last week it is consulting on proposals to close ticket offices and move the staff into other areas of the station where GWR says they can help more customers, as transactions at its ticket offices drop below 15 per cent. Subject to public consultation which ends on July 26, ticket offices in Cornwall could be phased by the end of next year.

Offices are proposed to close between October this year and June 2024 at Bodmin Parkway, Camborne, Liskeard, Par, Redruth, St Austell and St Erth, with Penzance and Truro to follow between September and December 2024, although ticket sales will be reduced at windows at those stations from this October. The rest of Cornwall’s stations no longer have ticket offices.

Politicians from all parties have spoken out against the proposals and there was a public protest at Penzance Railway Station against the move at 6pm last night (Tuesday, July 11). Members of the public have also spoken of their dismay at the mooted loss of booking offices.

What customers say

Linda Powlesland, of Dawlish, who regularly catches the train to visit friends in Cornwall, said: “I won’t be able to just go in and get advice about which train to get. I am very concerned that disabled people won’t be able to cope with the machines. It’s the total restriction of it and the insecurity of knowing there won’t be somebody there to give advice about how to get the best ticket and best route.

“The idea of putting people on the platform instead of ticket offices may be a bit too late for getting advice on the best ticket to get. It’s discriminatory when it comes to ageism and disability. A lot of the elderly will struggle with the machines.”

Bob Hicks, of St Blazey, who is 70 next week, added: “Young people do most things on their phones but older people often struggle with the size of the text and you hear horror stories of things being hacked so I don’t trust it. I’d definitely prefer to speak to someone in a ticket office.

"It’s the same at supermarkets where they’re phasing out people on the tills. I can understand why they’re doing it, but it’s not for the benefit of the customer. Certain things should be sacrosanct.

“It’s part of the ongoing erosion of the consideration of the elderly. Technology leaves a lot of the elderly behind. I think if things were done in a more co-operative fashion then it would be more harmonious for all.”


Councillor Andrew George joined other protestors at Penzance on Tuesday Picture: Andrew George

Councillor Andrew George joined other protestors at Penzance on Tuesday Picture: Andrew George


Duncan Simpson said: “When I’ve booked in the past to come down to Cornwall I have needed specific information about connections, i.e. from one operator to another and their particular rules of travel which ONLY a clerk behind a counter would be able to get from their computer information. I’m not going to get that kind of information from a machine.

“The reason according to those making this so-called cost-cutting move is that only 12% of travellers book over a counter with human interaction … 12% of possibly millions of trips made annually is STILL a huge number which they seem to forget. Do they really believe this move will improve the service with supposed savings?”

Nigel Kitto commented: “Disabled people will severely impacted by office closures. Shouldn’t happen.”

J Golding added: “Absolutely ridiculous not everyone is able to use ticket machines, you can’t ask a machine a question, will there be someone to help partially sighted people I wonder?”

What the politicians say

West Cornwall’s Conservative MP Derek Thomas denounced the proposed closure of the Penzance ticket office last week, as has the former MP for the area and now Liberal Democrat councillor for Ludgvan, Madron, Gulval and Heamoor, Andrew George.

Mr George said after last night's protest: "Brilliant turnout in Penzance this evening to oppose the planned closure of our Rail Ticket Offices. Over a hundred people. In fine voice. Determined to win.

"It's clear the campaign will generate strong support. This evening attracted passengers, rail enthusiasts, councillors and campaigners. If rail bosses and the Conservatives get away with it, most – including Penzance – could close as early as October.

"The plans are based on a fiction dreamt-up by remote and out-of-touch managers who have a naive faith in the infallibility of technology. They want to hide behind their ’smart’ systems, ‘apps’, and station concourse vending machines. Leaving frustrated and bewildered passengers to seek assistance from a few already harassed platform staff – if they can find them.

"People need people, not AI bot-managed systems."

Jayne Kirkam, Labour candidate for the Truro and Falmouth seat and Cornwall councillor for Falmouth Penwerris division, added: “I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport and the managing director of Great Western Rail, Mark Hopwood, to seek assurances about the future of Truro ticket office and the job security of rail staff. We need the Government to be open and honest about their plans as the consultation, at just three weeks, is so short.

“The ticket office at Truro railway station is a lifeline for many passengers, including lots of disabled, elderly and vulnerable travellers. Especially since the Falmouth branch line has become a penalty fare automated line. I will be fighting to save it from closure.”

St Austell and Newquay’s Conservative MP Steve Double has set up a survey asking for the local community’s opinion on the proposals.

What GWR says

A spokesperson for GWR said: “Digital tickets have made it easier and faster for customers to buy and manage tickets online, which means fewer people than ever are using ticket offices. With 85 per cent of ticket sales taking place outside a ticket office on the GWR network, we think it makes sense to put our people where they can be most help to customers.

“This consultation is designed to allow the public to test and examine our proposals, and make sure our plans are compliant with the safeguards put in place at privatisation so that the needs of customers will still be met.”

The public consultation ends on July 26. You can have your say at