I managed to lose a jacket on Southern Railway a few weeks ago, in the middle of August. I say I lost it, I left it in a carriage and didn’t realise until I was out of the station. By the time I doubled back, needless to say, the train I arrived on had departed back to Worthing / Littlehampton and it was out of sight.
I asked the station staff if they had found the jacket, but they professed ignorance. I filled in an online form, but I was fairly pessimistic. I had previously lost a pair of prescription glasses, which never turned up, and I wasn’t really expecting any results from this effort either.
Lo and behold, I did (after a couple of weeks) receive an email advising that they had my jacket and I could come and pick it up. And that is where the whole inconvenience and irrationality became apparent.

They advised that the jacket was at Victoria Station, in London, and I could come and pick it up between 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday.
a) I work from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday, and
b) I live in Worthing and I work in Brighton.

There is no way I can get to Victoria to collect my jacket. Even if I took time off work, losing a valuable day’s holiday which I would rather spend with family, it would cost me £18 and take four hours out of my life. Apparently all lost property found on Southern Rail ends up in Victoria. Which means that if you live in Lewes or Chichester or Littlehampton, you would need to get to Victoria to recover your goods.

But wait! There is a courier option! That might be worth exploring. Except that, having finally got through to the humans in the office, it seems that there is a challenge. Getting through to a human is a feat in itself; you have to pretend that you lost the item on a platform, and that it was more than 72 hours ago. The first two times I called, I chose the real options, i.e., that I left the item on a train, and the train terminated in Victoria – since Brighton / Littlehampton weren’t options. A recorded message informed me that I should phone Southern, and the call terminated. At no point during the myriad number of options was I offered the opportunity to speak to a real person. Anyway, once I got through to a real person in the Lost Property office in Victoria, they advised that yes, they could courier the item to me. The cost for an item of clothing was £24, and the £5 processing fee would need to be to added to that. So the cost of retrieving my jacket would either be £29 or £18 and a lost day.

I weighed up the options on offer, and told the lovely lady in the Victoria Lost Property office that she could bin the jacket. I wasn’t going to pay the outlandish fees they were requesting. They could have sent it UPS for a fiver, probably. Not to mention that, erm, Victoria is right at the centre of the best distribution network in the country, i.e., the railway. How difficult would it have been to put the jacket on the Victoria to Brighton, or Victoria to Worthing train, and leave it in the Customer Service office there for me to pick up?

It seems to me that not only are Southern absolutely crap at organising trains and their running times, but they are out to scalp their customers for returning to them what is rightfully theirs.

I’ve had enough of Southern and their complete ineptitude, and I am currently investigating the cost of leasing a car to get into work. Yes, it will add to the overall congestion on the roads, but it seems that I can get a car for about £100 a month, which compares favourably to the £160 Southern charge for my monthly ticket. And if it means not paying this inefficient company any more money, it may be worth it in the long run. “Vote with your feet”, that’s what they say, isn’t it?


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