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Every year when our rail fares rise far more than the rate of inflation, we’re told that the nation’s railways are losing money hand over fist and there’s no alternative to exorbitant fare hikes if we want to keep the services running (and, they tell us, improving)!
Judging by the news this week, there may be another way to get the funding we need without squeezing every commuter dry…
According to figures released by Network Rail, many of our busiest stations are making a small fortune from washroom entrance charges. London Victoria is the top earner, raking in £2.3 million over the past three years; in 2013/2014 it spent £115,525 on the washrooms, while making £747,367. And the infographic here shows that it’s not alone…
If every station were to have decent facilities and charge those who need to use them, enough to make providing the service worthwhile, perhaps those of us who don’t need to use the loo too often won’t break the bank in buying our travel tickets.
Many stations charge between 30p and 50p per visit although I’m told there are some that charge as much as £1 – and those in need, pay it. The profit made is said to far outweigh the amount spent on staffing and maintaining the toilets and although I rarely use the facilities myself, those that do tell me that they’re very well maintained.
A Network Rail spokesperson is quoted in the Metro as saying: “The small charge we make for using the public toilet facilities in our stations helps to maintain them, ensures they are fully staffed and prevents misuse such as vandalism and other anti-social behaviour. Any profit from station toilets is reinvested in the railway and passenger facilities.”
My question is, if the railways can provide well maintained public washrooms AND make a profit, why can’t our local authorities? Why are our public washrooms being shut down and often sold off to housing developers, leaving the general public with nowhere to ‘go’, when they can be kept open and used to make a profit while providing an essential service – or am I missing something here?
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10th September 2015