A rallying cry was heard outside of Liskeard Train Station’s ticket office last Thursday when locals came together to express their frustration and anger at the proposed loss of the facility.
Great Western Railway is urging rail users to have their say on a public consultation which would see ticket office staff moved to other areas of the station where they can be “closer to customers and better placed to help”.
However, RMT, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, are fighting back against these claims. They say this action would negatively impact those with additional needs who rely on this local service to access the rail link.
On Thursday, July 20, Liskeard town councillors Simon Cassidy and Annette Lee Julian and members of SE Cornwall Labour Party joined members of the RMT Trade Union on their picket line at Liskeard station as they demonstrated against the loss of jobs and the planned closure of the ticket office.
The event was also attended by members of the public.
Cllr Lee Julian said: “We are fighting to protect our community - Liskeard Station is already difficult for those with additional needs and as a wheelchair user myself am so very grateful for the support the staff at Liskeard give to me when travelling by train - to think that this will disappear is frightening to say the least.”
Cllr Cassidy added: “We must support the RMT in their campaign to stop the closure of ticket offices across Cornwall. Many people struggle with online ticketing and the ticket machines and would be at a loss not to be able to speak to someone directly. The mere presence of someone to provide advice and help is paramount not just to local residents but also to the many tourists who rely upon this personal touch. We must stand alongside our railway workers and fight together”
Great Western Railway is consulting on proposals to move ticket office staff into other areas of the station, as they say transactions at ticket offices have dropped below 15%.
Barry West, RMT regional organiser, said the proposals are “discriminatory” and that the “safety and the welfare of customers will be adversely affected” by the changes.
Mr West said: “It was an amazing sight to see so many members of the community in Liskeard this morning
“People from all walks of life were there to share their stories about the wonderful service they had experienced over the years from those that work in the ticket offices.
“The proposed changes are seen and felt by all who attended as discriminatory and nonsensical.
“Issues raised were that many did not do anything online especially purchasing products or services. Some had no access to internet and one had dyslexia.
“Using machines in the future did not offer a sensible or workable alternative to them.
“Members of the public are telling us that the ticket offices do so much more than sell tickets. They offer support, advice, guidance and many had benefited from being offered alternative tickets that saved them money.
“There are concerns that safety and the welfare of customers will be adversely affected and especially the elderly, vulnerable and the disabled.”
Mr West felt these promises mirrored those of the banks and supermarkets.
He added: “See how many banks have shut their doors in Cornwall and the South West. The promises being made by the train operators will in the future prove to be worthless and vital roles will disappear along with the support and level of service provision.
“Already, vital services have moved to only being online, such as discount rail cards for 16 17 year olds and the senior railcard for three year period along with the disabled persons railcard.
“That cannot be fair as it is exclusive not inclusive.”
In response to GWR’s proposals MP for South East Cornwall Sheryll Murray said: “I am greatly concerned about these proposals. I have used these stations myself on many occasions and have seen how busy the ticket offices are. I am also concerned because it is often those who are more vulnerable, who do not have the ability to do this online, who use this service. South East Cornwall has more older residents than average and can see patchier internet access than many other areas. We also rely on tourists who do have more questions about the tickets they are buying who are so important to our economy. It is important that everyone can still use our railways.
“I have written to the consultation, GWR and the Minister concerned about my deep reservations about these proposals. I would encourage all those affected to take part in the consultation which lasts until Wednesday, July 26.”
A spokesperson for GWR said: “Digital tickets and mobile phones means our ticket office staff are helping around half the number of people they did in 2019. It makes sense to move staff where they can be more help to more customers, and provide more training to help with a wider range of issues– like assisting those with reduced mobility through stations and onto our trains.
“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.”