Back­lash over rail firm that takes 10pc of cash from wal­lets left on train

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By He­lena Hor­ton

PAS­SEN­GERS have com­plained of be­ing “held to ran­som” by a train com­pany which kept 10 per cent of cash from wal­lets handed to lost prop­erty.

The rail watch­dog has crit­i­cised train com­pa­nies and de­scribed their lost prop­erty sys­tems as “not fit for pur­pose” af­ter a pas­sen­ger who had to hand over a por­tion of the cash in his wal­let ac­cused Ar­riva Trains Wales of “theft by train”.

Adam How­ells was trav­el­ling from Cardiff to Lyd­ney at the be­gin­ning of Au­gust when he lost his wal­let, con­tain­ing £86, on the train. A month later, he re­ceived a let­ter from the com­pany say­ing it had been found. When he trav­elled to the New­port lost prop­erty of­fice, he was told that the sum of a £2 re­lease fee and 10 per cent cash would be de­ducted from the money inside his wal­let.

Mr How­ells said his money was taken out of his wal­let and placed in the ticket of­fice till. He said: “I had to get it back out of your ticket of­fice till!” He also claimed his credit cards were shred­ded.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple voiced their anger on so­cial me­dia. Ja­son Philpot wrote: “That’s de­spi­ca­ble! On what planet is it ap­pro­pri­ate to ran­som peo­ple’s prop­erty?”

While most rail op­er­a­tors charge a mod­est fee – usu­ally around £2 – to process lost prop­erty, Ar­riva Trains Wales charge a per­cent­age based on any cash found in a lost wal­let.

One Twitter user, Ali­son Jones said: “This is the cra­zi­est thing I have ever heard, be ashamed of your­selves Ar­riva Trains Wales! As if you guys don’t make enough from the pas­sen­gers that fail to get the seat they pay for on over­crowded trains! Dis­gust­ing.”

An­other, Jon, added: “This is out­ra­geous! Not a set charge but a [per­cent­age] of what’s in your wal­let. Bla­tant prof­i­teer­ing! Look at all the gen­uine peo­ple who can’t be­lieve this pol­icy!”

The com­pany de­fended its pol­icy, ar­gu­ing that cash costs more to store, record and process safely than other kinds of lost prop­erty, and clar­i­fied it only takes a per­cent­age of cash amounts up to £100.

The train com­pany also charges £25 for lap­tops, £10 for mo­bile phones, and £3 for pushchairs, bikes, hel­mets and skate­boards.

How­ever, later in the day, Ar­riva Trains Wales re­sponded to the pub­lic out­cry by chang­ing its pol­icy and re­fund­ing the cus­tomer who com­plained.

David Side­bot­tom, di­rec­tor at the in­de­pen­dent watch­dog Trans­port Fo­cus, said: “The cur­rent lost prop­erty sys­tems in place are, in many cases, not fit for pur­pose for re­unit­ing lost prop­erty with right­ful own­ers. “We’re call­ing for a cen­tralised data­base, as well as sen­si­ble rules for deal­ing with lost prop­erty across the rail net­work.”

A spokesman for Ar­riva Trains Wales said in a state­ment: “Fol­low­ing re­cent feed­back we will now be chang­ing our pol­icy with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

Atrain com­pany is think­ing again af­ter pas­sen­gers were out­raged to be charged 10 per cent of the cash left in mislaid wal­lets be­fore the lost prop­erty depart­ment would re­turn them. “Fol­low­ing cus­tomer feed­back,” said Ar­riva Trains Wales, in cau­tious of­fi­cialese, “we are cur­rently re­view­ing our pol­icy.” Through some quirk in hu­man be­hav­iour, strange things tend to be left on trains: Stradi­var­ius vi­o­lins con­stantly and ar­ti­fi­cial limbs oc­ca­sion­ally. Did the train com­pany deduct a cat-gut string be­fore re­turn­ing the for­mer or an ar­ti­fi­cial toe from the lat­ter? Per­haps, as in that clas­sic film from a more in­no­cent era, Oh, Mr

Porter!, Ar­riva Trains Wales would milk any cow lost in tran­sit and use the milk to cool their tea. They cer­tainly seem to have had no com­punc­tion in milk­ing their more ab­sent-minded pas­sen­gers.

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