Penzance train station protest: Visually impaired woman slams plans to close train ticket offices

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

A woman who is visually impaired says she "wouldn't be able to buy a ticket on a machine", as hundreds joined protests outside Penzance train station against plans to shut nearly all ticket offices in England.

Monique Schneider says she's "not on the internet" and her visual impairment means she's concerned about the security of using a ticket machine.

Monique said: "I have increasing macular degeneration which means that I'm very bad at reading numbers or small print. I could never buy a ticket on a machine."

Great Western Railway says it is consulting on plans to move staff from behind ticket offices to "multi-skilled roles" where they could help more customers wherever they are at the station.

But many disability groups are still concerned this could put vulnerable passengers off train travel.

Christiane Berghoff has lived in Penzance for 25 years but was born in Germany and regularly travels back. She says the staff at the ticket office are "part of the community".

"You go there, you know, the people. And yes, I can do things online but also they actually get a better connection, a better deal."

Heather Williams also says she's had better information from the ticket office than what she can find online.

Heather explained: "My last journey, for example, I was unable to find out whether there were going to be trains running properly the next day. And I came down here and the lovely lady here supported me straight away."

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch spoke to crowds about outside the station encouraging people to fight to keep their local ticket office open.

Talking about First Group, the union leader said, "they want to shut this ticket office, they want to de-staff the stations and change the nature of the railway."

"People are sick of their towns being denuded, they've lost their banks, post offices, shops and community access facilities are being shut down because of commercial decisions.

"So we need to make sure that the railway stations are maintained. People want this service to be there, they don't want a dehumanised clinical railway."

Barry West is the regional rep for the RMT union, he says the consultation has been too focused on people responding "electronically".

"There are many people out there that we're campaigning for and with, who aren't able to have a voice. So coming to these campaigns helps to give those people a voice. If you do everything electronic excludes a massive amount of the community."

Paul Gentleman from GWR says: "We are not looking to change the way that our stations are staffed."

"If today we have staff at a station then we will do after this consultation. So there will still be people in the station who can help who are more in need."