Travellers, artists, city councillors and union officials gathered outside Truro railway station yesterday to protest against the closure of its ticket office.

The rally was organised by Barry West, regional organiser of the Rail and Maritime Transport (RMT) union, who said there was a “good turnout” at the “impromptu” meeting.

“Many different groups were represented and it is very clear that the draconian cuts will affect many people from across all parts of society,” he said. “This scale of opposition is unprecedented and it’s clear the concerns of passengers must be heard.

“Despite the official deadline having passed, the campaign to save our ticket offices continues. Many people have attended protests and filled in petitions, either online or physically.

"The proposal to close or reduce operational hours would clearly represent a worsening for passengers in terms of accessibility, service and personal safety – and there is a very real fear that any rail staff displaced by this exercise will not be available or redeployed as promised.”

Musicians Susie Lewis, from Truro, and Ian David performed their single Last Train, which has been adopted by the RMT as its Staff Our Stations campaign song, and has been viewed over 65,000 times on Facebook.

“I wrote the song about my experience of travelling by train, hanging around stations late at night as an older woman without a smartphone,” she explained. “I offered it to the RMT, and they created a video for it which has turned out to be one of their best ever campaigns.

“I travel a lot - Ian is based in Halifax, and we have just spent two weeks touring northern venues. I don’t drive, and take the train all the time. I always use the ticket office, especially for long journeys – the staff do an incredible job.”

Susie also works in theatre with people who have learning disabilities. “I think they would find using a ticket machine impossible.”

Traveller Lesley Clayton explained that she and her husband are retired and do not have a car. “We are reliant on public transport and have been using Truro ticket office for many years,” she said.

“We frequently make quite complicated journeys - when going on long walking holidays, for example, or visiting relatives in Sheffield and Melksham on the way home. 

“Ticket office staff help us sort out the best way to tackle these journeys and frequently find good deals for us. They are not merely helpful; they are essential for our use of the railway.”

Sarah Wetherill, city councillor (Green) for Moresk and Trehaverne, quoted an average of 342 tickets a day sold at Truro’s ticket office in 2022/23 – around 125,000 over the year. 

“Closing ticket offices will have an unacceptable impact on more vulnerable rail users, particularly those with support needs and mobility issues,” she said.

“Ticket offices represent the 'human face' of the rail service. The proposed closures also amount to a further degradation of train services at a time when rail travel should be promoted as a key tool in tackling the climate emergency.  

“This is clearly a much-valued service which must be maintained.”

Steven Webb, city councillor (LibDem) for Moresk and Trehaverne and former Truro mayor of Truro, expressed “grave concerns” and called for the reconsideration of service nationalisation.

“A train ticket office is far more than just a transactional space; it serves as a vital lifeline for people in need of assistance, including those with disabilities,” he said.

“Having been paralysed for over 30 years, I can attest to the crucial role these offices play in providing a sense of security for individuals who require assistance in navigating train stations.

“The notion of travelling by train can instil fear and anxiety in people like me, making the presence of dedicated staff at ticket offices an invaluable comfort.”

He added: “Services that are integral to our communities, from post offices and buses to train ticket offices, are being compromised under the guise of viability. These aren’t mere profit-making ventures; they are points of contact crucial for the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens.

“As contracts for these services come to an end, it’s high time we seriously consider nationalising them to ensure they meet the needs of all members of our community.”

Current Truro mayor Cllr Carol Swain (LibDem) said that while the city council had not been able to discuss the proposals, due to a clash between consultation timings and the council’s internal timetable of meetings and agenda deadlines, she had submitted her own response.

“In my view, the proposal for Truro, and most of the mainline stations in Cornwall, is discriminatory against the most physically and mentally challenged rail users, as well as not being justified by the data about the current level of ticket office sales.

“I very much hope that the proposals with now be reconsidered in the light of the overwhelming level of public response to the consultation.”

Jayne Kirkham, Labour parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth, pointed out that over half a million responded to a “hastily arranged and extended” consultation regarding ticket offices.

“We intend to keep raising awareness of the plan to close Truro ticket office and, I understand, lose four staff members by the end of next year - so the changes cannot be pushed through quietly,” she said, adding that a Labour government would take rail companies back into public ownership.