Arriva Trains Wales has been forced to change its policy on charging people who have lost their wallets 10% of the cash found in them following a backlash.
The policy came to light when Adam Howells, whose lost wallet was found by the train company, took to Twitter to complain about the unexpected charge, which was on top of a £2 return fee.
The train company said it was changing its rules and would be refunding Howells the percentage he was charged.
A spokeswoman said: “Our customers’ feedback is really important to us and following recent feedback on this issue we will now be changing our policy with immediate effect.
“In this instance we are happy to refund the percentage that was charged to the customer who brought this to our attention.
“We are happy to begin the process of reviewing the lost property policy with customer groups and rail industry regulatory bodies.”
They added that tens of thousands of items of lost property are left behind by customers and it “takes a considerable amount of resource” to safely store, record and process the items.
Howells was travelling from Cardiff to Lydney at the beginning of August when he lost his wallet, which had £86 in it. Four weeks after reporting it missing to the train company, he received a letter to say it had been found and that there would be a £2 release fee.
However, when he went to collect it, he was told first of all there may not be enough money in the tills to give it to him, indicating that the company removes money from wallets when they are found.
He was also told the company would take 10% of the contents, but wasn’t given an explanation why.
He told HuffPost UK: “In total I had to pay £10.60 to get my money and wallet back. It also said in the letter that if it’s not collected in 12 weeks it would be given to charity.
“However, I’m now not convinced that would have happened, as the money was put in their tills and being used by the company, until I went and collected it. So I’m pretty disappointed and shocked.
“Surely they should have sealed my wallet and put in a safe, untouched. My cards were also shredded, but shredded cards were not returned to me, so no proof.”
Arriva Trains Wales initially defended the policy and said the fees helped keep the lost property offices running. The company said items that go uncollected are donated to good causes.
According to the operator’s lost property policy, it charges 10% of any cash recovered limited to a minimum of £2 and a maximum of £10.
If a passenger lost a wallet containing £100, they would be charged £10 for its return along with a £2 fee and postage charge.
Other lost items come at a fixed price for their release.
Passengers who lose laptops are charged £25 for the return, while mobile phones are set at £10.
Rucksacks, suitcases, watches, bracelets, pushchairs, bikes, cycle helmets and skateboards are all charged £3.
One Twitter user, Alison Jones said: “Oh my days, this is the craziest thing I have ever heard, be ashamed of yourselves [Arriva Trains Wales]! As if you guys don’t make enough from the passengers that fail to get the seat they pay for on overcrowded trains! Disgusting.”
Phill Lawrence said: “Next time a train is one second late every single passenger should get a [percentage] of the ticket back depending on the value of ticket.”
Another user, Jon, said: “This is outrageous! Not a set charge but a [percentage] of what’s in your wallet. Blatant profiteering! Look at all the genuine people who can’t believe this policy! Judge by the huge reaction to this thread.”
A member of the Arriva Trains Wales social media team replied to users who complained about the policy in response to Howell’s tweet.
In one tweet, they said: “The fees are used towards the running costs of the lost property office, handling lost property takes up a lot of resources. Any items of value that are not collected in 12 weeks are donated to charity.”
The spokeswoman later said: “The fees are used towards the cost of running the lost property service. When cash is recovered extra admin work in required.”
David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, told Wales Online that current lost property systems in place are “not fit for purpose”.
He is calling for a centralised database as well as “sensible rules” for dealing with lost property across the rail network, including looking at fees.
He added: “Transport Focus will also working with the new operator in Wales on lost property tracking in the future.”
A spokesman for Arriva Trains Wales originally said: “Tens of thousands of items are lost on the railway network every year.
“To safely store, record and process all these items takes a considerable amount of resource and as such we, like other train operators in the UK, have a small handling and administration fee which is clearly outlined on our website and Passenger’s Charter.”