For years visitors from the North of England travelling to London have been appalled that the majority of public toilets in the City and in major railway stations have charged an entry fee. “Are you seriously telling me that after paying nearly £200 to travel from Wakefield to King’s Cross, Network Rail have the gall to fleece me 50p for a piss?” said approximately 500,000 letters of complaint received in the last quarter alone.
A Network Rail executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “We introduced the pay-to-use powder room system as a way of plugging one of the many financial black holes facing our national railway infrastructure. However, across 15 years of these fees, our data showed the system had cost us on average £1.5million a year more than the income generated. The main cost was down to excessive cleaning bills as a result of irate northerners defecating on the concourse in protest.”
Network Rail confirmed in a press release last week that toilets at all of the stations it manages in the Capital would become free-to-use with immediate effect.
A spokesperson for the Rail Passengers’ Association said “Passengers have overwhelmingly welcomed this about-face from Network Rail. Last year, at the height of the Southern Rail crisis, we heard from passengers who had been stuck on trains for 15, sometimes 18 hours between Herne Hill and Brixton. None of the carriages on that route are fitted with toilets, and upon arrival at Victoria it was… well, The Sun drew a comparison with Passchendaele.”
However, self-styled ‘Open Air Piss Artist’ James Taylor, 58, from Halifax, says “For most people, I admit, a free public facility is most welcome. However, when I were a lad we had to use a privy up the garden, and the feel of howling wind about my nethers is a nostalgic treat redolent of boyhood innocence.” Taylor adds “The fact of the matter is up in Halifax public conveniences are both prevalent and free, which for me is something of an inconvenience, if you’ll pardon the pun”.
Taylor says that travelling into London in the winter months, and taking advantage of the exorbitant prices of the Capital’s lavatories as quasi-moral justification for public urination, was a favourite pastime. “At first people do wonder if you’re a few shafts short of a pit when they see you having a piddle on Platform 8 at King’s Cross, but once they learn I’m a Yorkshireman they usually conclude I’m just a miser making a point,” says Taylor. “At close to £300 return it’s actually quite a spendthrift way to get a thrill.” The pissoir-savant sighs. “I suppose all good things come to an end.”