/ Travel & Leisure

Good news? Toilet charges are being flushed away

Toilet sign

Network Rail has announced plans to scrap toilet charges at its stations from 2019 – so no more scrabbling around for loose change when you’re waiting for a train. Our guest author, Hannah Jolliffe, asks: should you pay to spend a penny?

I’m lucky enough to not have to travel by train too often anymore, but I’m still strangely pleased about this announcement.

Toilet charges

The last time I got a train to London for a meeting I avoided the (rather undesirable) train toilets, choosing to pay a visit to the station toilet when I arrived at Paddington.

As an infrequent train traveller, I completely forgot about the toilet charges and found myself short of change and laden with bags at a toilet turnstile. Not the best start to the day.

Network Rail’s Chief Executive Mark Carne said it was ‘quite wrong to penalise people when they are in discomfort’ and that they are aiming to make people’s lives ‘easier, not more difficult’.

For commuters, paying 30-40p to use the loo on a regular basis soon adds up – saving a few quid each week isn’t to be sniffed at, especially when ticket charges are rising so steadily.

Network Rail is even planning to install water fountains into its stations – another very simple change that can help commuters save money (not to mention reduce plastic waste, one of my big bugbears). I hope this is a move that will be replicated at all train stations.

Should we pay?

My main concern with this change is whether cleaning and maintenance budgets will be reduced as a result. Station toilets are generally well-kept and it would be a shame if they become places we avoid at all costs (or no cost, as the case may be).

So will this change make much difference to your train travels, or are you happy to pay to spend a penny?

This is a guest contribution by Hannah Jolliffe. All views are Hannah’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Comments
Member

Looking for loose change when the need arises is a nuisance, and restricted entry to station toilets difficult with a suitcase in tow. The lose change bit, requires an exact coin as these machines don’t give change or accept other coins. No 20p coin, no pee. Regarding cleaning, this should ALWAYS be a part of the station service and never compromised. Travellers pay enough for their tickets, this is part of the railway service they should expect for their fare.

Member

I do believe that all toilets should be free and clean in what is supposed to be a civilised society.

I agree with Hannah on the need for drinking water fountains to help combat the waste of plastic.

Member

I must say that this will be a great relief, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Network Rail operates only the 18 busiest stations in England, Scotland and Wales –

Birmingham New Street
Bristol Temple Meads
Edinburgh Waverley
Glasgow Central
Leeds
Liverpool Lime Street
London Bridge
London Cannon Street
London Charing Cross
London Euston
London Kings Cross
London Liverpool Street
London Paddington
London St Pancras International
London Victoria
London Waterloo
Manchester Piccadilly
Reading.

London St Pancras International is owned by London & Continental Railways but operated by Network Rail and it has had free toilets [and very long queues] for some years.

Major stations in other cities are absent from this list as they are operated by the primary train operating company serving the station and usually have free access to the toilets, although they might be on the railway side of the barrier line meaning they are only accessible to ticket-holders. Most train operators have recognised that providing free toilets at their stations is a necessary part of their customer service standards and generally their provision is adequate. My main criticism is over the sufficiency of urinals and cubicles which is often not enough, especially when a full train arrives. Most termini had commodious toilets when they were built in Victorian times but over the years those spaces have been reduced and used for other purposes so cramped facilities and queues are now commonplace.

Many stations down the line no longer have passenger toilets and most commuter trains around London on ‘metro’ services do not have on-board facilities. Even where trains do have toilets they are not always satisfactory or are out of use. So to expect people to pay to use a toilet on arriving at a terminus has always struck me as rather mean. Network Rail collected £4.8 million from people using its station toilets in the last financial year.

Like Hannah, my first reaction on reading this was that cleaning and maintenance standards would be reduced, and I hope this does not happen. Apart from anything else, the change will lead to higher use [and misuse] levels. I am most familiar with the toilets at London Liverpool Street which are usually in good condition, although the entry turnstiles have occasionally been out of order and entry has been free of charge. It does have a change-giving machine which was useful when, unknown to me in advance, the charge had been increased from 20p to 30p. This charge meant that many intending toilet users would divert to the adjacent public house to use their facilities.

Member

Not only railway stations but BUS stations too ,the charge at many bus stations is now 30 p local councils build and run most bus stations so pressure must be put on them to provide toilet facilities for free They believe people WILL have to use them so why not make them pay just as the rail provider did On some bus stations they are still free to use

Member

Paying to pee doesn’t guarantee clean toilets unfortunately, it’s just another excuse to gouge passengers. Case in point, the toilets at Brighton station require payment to enter and treat you to a urine soaked floor.

Member

I presume Brighton Station is operated by Southern Railway. If I were in your shoes I would complain to them and ask for compensation to pay for a new pair.

Member
Phil says:
12 March 2018

I’m happy these charges are going, but Why they couldnt take card payments for entry if you had no change ? Shouldn’t be difficult and I would personally prefer cleaned facilities

Member

testing

Member
Lew says:
1 April 2018

The use of toilets should be free especially when local seem to be closing toilets when they should keeping them open to prevent the rise in people using the the streets as a urinal

Member

When I visited Italy I found that you could go into any restaurant or café and use the toilet in there Just go in use the toilet and leave no need to be a customer There seemed to be very few public toilets