Sunday, 26 September 2010



I remember leaving a laptop on a train.  I went to the train station and asked if it had been handed in.  After a few phone calls we discovered it had surfaced at Southend and it was popped back on a train to Brentwood and I had it back in my possession by the end of the day.

It was a simple process that relied on human beings to care and be bothered, and it worked.

Yesterday, about 10 minutes after getting off the train at Liverpool Street we realised we’d left a rucksack on the train.  I continued on the tube to Tottenham Court Road while Dave got out at Chancery Lane and went back to Liverpool Street.

When Dave arrived at Liverpool Street he found staff who were helpful.  They advised that the train was no longer in the station but that it might have been headed to Southend and they’d ask staff to look for it at Southend.  Nothing had been found by Liverpool Street cleaning staff.

When I emerged at Tottenham Court Road I thought I’d try the telephone to see what I could achieve.  On the National Rail website was a general enquiries number which I called.  None of the automated options seemed applicable to I chose the catch all “If your call is about anything else, please stay on the line.” After 15 minutes someone answered, told me he could give me the number for Liverpool Street but couldn’t help in any other way because I’d called an emergency line.  I told him it wasn’t a very good emergency line if they kept people on hold for 15 minutes. 

Dave phoned, explained what he’d done and I thought there was no point in my pursuing the telephone route.

Today I thought I’d try again.  I found another number for National Rail and spoke to someone in Newcastle and I entered into the ridiculous world of a fragmented rail network.

Newcastle lost property woman said she couldn’t tell me whether anything had been handed into Liverpool Street because Liverpool Street was a separate company and they “didn’t talk.” 

I said “But you’re the Central person co-ordinating lost property.  That’s ridiculous.” 

“But they’re a separate company” she replied.

“But don’t you see how ridiculous that sounds and how unhelpful that is as far as the customer is concerned?” I asked.

“We don’t have the time or the resources…”

I was past listening.  A lost property service that doesn’t have the time and resource to do what a customer would expect of a lost property service.

“…Do you want to leave your details?”

I left my details and asked “What happens if my bag is found?”

She explained “The two lost property offices for East Anglia aren’t open until Monday so if something is handed in it will be sent to one of the regional lost property offices".”

“Where are the two regional lost property offices?”

“Norwich and Cambridge”

“So my bag, which may be handed in at Brentwood will get sent to either Norwich or Cambridge?  How do I get it back?"

“That’s between you and the lost property office.”

“So I might need to drive to Norwich to retrieve a bag which could have been handed into a station less than a couple of miles from my home?”


Arghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!  The world’s gone mad.

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