Lost property fees inconsistent say rail campaign groups
Rail passengers face a sliding scale of charges, up to £25 an item, to get their lost property back depending on where they mislaid it.
Transport campaigners say there should be one national system so rail travellers can find items easily.
Passenger group, Transport Focus, says having so many unique systems across the network is not customer friendly.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said storage costs can vary.
Train-operating companies and rail stations across the UK charge different fees to re-unite passengers with their lost property, with some using private companies to run their lost property service.
Operators typically charge up to £25 depending on the item, but the maximum permitted under their franchise agreements is £30.
There are now calls for a single, central system so that passengers know how to get their property back, wherever it was lost, and exactly how much they can expect to pay.
Dervish Mertcan, from Transport Focus, said there was a need to "build trust" between operators and passengers.
"There are over 20 train companies and no centralised database," he said. "Some train companies don't even run their own lost property service so you have contact the outsourced company.
"I think the inconsistency in the service they receive is annoying for passengers. A properly run, centralised system that allows passengers to find out for themselves if their property has been found would be of huge benefit and would help deliver a better service for passengers."
Abellio Greater Anglia charges up to £25 but gives people 24 hours to come forward before imposing the fee. A spokesman said: "There is no charge for collection of lost property if it is found and collected by the owner within 24 hours. Fees for the retrieval of lost property were set within guidelines agreed by all operators. Fees cover the cost of operating the lost property service; it is not a profit-making operation."
Arriva Trains Wales, which charges between £2 and £25, stressed it did not make any profit from the cost of storing and returning lost property, saying: "[The charges] do not even cover the admin of the service as so much lost property goes unclaimed."
Virgin Trains and CrossCountry hand over lost property to rail stations. South West Trains charges between £2 and £20 to recover items but also puts on storage a fee of £1 for electrical items and 50p for all others per 24 hours.
East Midlands Trains have scrapped lost property fees altogether.
Sliding scale of charges
The Excess Baggage Company runs the lost property service for Southern Rail, Network Rail stations as well as Gatwick and Luton Airports. Its charges range from £3 for a left umbrella or keys to £20 for expensive goods such as laptop computers and video cameras.
The company says: "Our charges for the handling of lost property are those prescribed by the Association of Train Operating Companies and as such are endorsed by the Department for Transport."
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: "Train operators will do everything they reasonably can to take care of luggage, articles, animals or cycles that have been left on trains or at stations.
"As a condition of their franchise, train companies are required to maintain a lost property process. The costs of storing valuable items such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones as well as more everyday items can vary."
They are not allowed to charge more than £2 per day per item, and not exceed £30 per item, depending on the type of property and the period of time for which it has been kept. the spokesman added.