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London’s Railway Bathrooms To Become Free From 2019

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Time to update all the guidebooks. A big change is coming to London’s railways later this year (and Britain’s). You may have noticed that when you’re caught short in London’s mainline railway stations that they charge for the privilege of using the public toilets. As an American, this has always struck me as odd.

There are rarely any paid public bathrooms here. You never have to remember to have spare change to pay to use the bathroom and who has spare change these days anyway? We live in a semi-cashless society.

According to the BBC, from 2019, Network Rail, the organization that owns and runs most Railway Stations in Britain, will scrap all toilet charges. A specific date has not been set but it will happen sometime in 2019.

Network Rail Chief executive Mark Carne said it was “quite wrong to penalize people when they are in discomfort.” This isn’t just happening in London, they’re scrapping them all over Britain. It’s interesting that they’re doing this – it’s a cash cow for them – the BBC says they took in £4.8 million last year from the toilet fees.

On the one hand, once I learned that toilets in Britain sometimes cost money, I was generally OK with it. It paid to keep the toilets nice, clean and safe. However, I have been one of those people caught short on more than one occasion. I was diagnosed with IBS a few years ago and I recall one particularly distressing incident late at night where the only bathroom I could find on short notice was at Charing Cross Railway Station, and I didn’t have change for the turnstiles. I had to frantically run through the station, just as the vendors were closing for the night to find someone to make change for me, covered in sweat and in pain.

I am very happy with this development.

jonathan
Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I would rather keep coins in my coin purse and have clean toilets than have them become free. Americans and any other person visiting the UK needs to adjust. Americans are terrible at anything they aren’t used to!

    • I am an American and I find having to pay for the toilets no trouble at all. I too would much rather have toilets that are clean and safe. It’s one of the things I have always liked about being in Britain. I’m sorry to hear they will be changing this. I have to use toilets a lot for medical issues and hate going in dirty ones, especially as I have to use them so frequently. I hope they do a better job of keeping them clean than they do in America.

  2. I found it odd the first time I visited, but I do like having a clean toilet to visit when I need it. I just made sure to keep my change whenever I paid cash for anything.

  3. I have been living abroad for so long that it wasn’t until I saw this article that I remembered the well-used phrase, “I’m just going to spend a penny!” I am sure foreigners would have no idea what that meant.
    I have to agree, as a woman, having someone there at night for security and the added benefit of cleanliness is so well worth it. Outside Britain, I have often had to suspend my needs because toilets in public places were too smelly, dirty or in bad condition.

  4. I’m feeling like I may be the only person (American) old enough to remember pay toilets here? I can remember being with my mom in bus stations and having to pay a dime to use the toilet when I was a little girl. Once you get used to it in the UK, you just make sure that you have change. And, I completely understand the IBS, Jonathan! Yikes!

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