In what must count as a rare outbreak of customer care counting for more than earning a few pence more, Network Rail has announced that it will scrap fees to use toilets at all its train stations ‘from 2019’.
Quite why Network Rail thinks customers can hold on until this undefined date next year, and why they don’t just open the barriers tomorrow does not appear to have been explained, but the fact that Network Rail currently earns a little under £5 million a year from people’s need to relieve themselves may have something to do with it.
Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne said it was “quite wrong to penalise people when they are in discomfort”, despite the company having done precisely that for years, and that Network Rail’s job should be to make people’s lives “easier, not more difficult”. Maybe an executive’s wife got caught short and found herself without change one day and was forced to squat and wee on a platform? That would explain a lot.
Currently, Network Rail charges paying passengers between 30-40p to use toilets at stations in London, Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Passengers at Charing Cross and Victoria stations have not had to pay to use the toilets since December 2016, when charges were waived in recognition of the effects of constant travel disruption. Passengers at London Bridge and Cannon Street stations in the capital do not pay to use the toilets.
Stations that will be affected by Network Rail’s promised changes include King’s Cross, Euston, Liverpool Street, Paddington and Waterloo – all in London – as well as Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central.
The firm has also announced it intends to install drinking fountains at the stations it manages, starting with Charing Cross “by the end of March”. It is not clear at the time of writing if the fountains will be free to use.