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