Station staff fail to report lost propertyOwners not told property is found, finds Which?

23 October 2008

A train standing at a platform

How many London-bound commuters have to stand each day?

 

Two thirds of rail station staff failed to contact owners whose lost property was handed in, a Which? investigation found.

Posing as passengers, Which? researchers visited 16 rail stations and handed in a coat and wallet containing £22 they reported finding on a train.

The wallets were clearly labelled with the owners' name and phone number. We visited in office hours and gave the coat in at a lost property office, where one was found open, or to station staff.

No contact from rail staff

Just five of the main 16 stations researchers visited contacted us to say an item with our contact details in it had been found.

Staff are supposed to call owners if their contact details are in an item, so they know which of the 20 rail companies that run stations have it.

Missing money

We had concerns at Plymouth station. We got a call from First Great Western (FGW), which runs the station but it said no money had been found.

The coat was transferred to lost property at Bristol Temple Meads. When we collected it, our researchers told a staff member there was no money in it, but he didn't suggest how to pursue the matter.

Which? contacted FGW, which said it had records that £22 had been found and had been put in a bank account for safe keeping in accordance with its procedures.

It said it had issued a receipt but could not explain why this wasn't in the coat or that wallet, as it should have been.

No change

When we did the same test in 2003, again just five of the 16 stations called us.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said it was working on a central database of lost property.

This time, Atoc, while commenting that our sample was small, admitted it hadn't found a way to make a practical and cost-effective central lost property database.

We handed in our coats in July and waiting three weeks to be called. The stations that did get in contact were Birmingham, Liverpool, Oxford, Plymouth and Victoria – three run by Network Rail, two by FGW.

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