From pet dogs to prosthetic limbs: Southern Rail’s lost property department has seen it all

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Losing your phone or wallet on the train can be a complete disaster, but imagine if you left your prosthetic limb or pet dog behind.

Southern deals with thousands of lost items each year and the lost property team at the rail company work hard to reunite owners with their lost belongings using customer relations and social media.

Unsurprisingly, luggage comes top of the list with passengers leaving back packs, holdalls and suitcases on the train regularly.

In 2017, Southern took in 4,016 bags, 259 books, 34 pieces of camera equipment, 2,093 items of clothing, 338 pieces of computer equipment, 258 electrical goods, 348 pairs of glasses, 538 ID passes, 201 pieces of jewellery and 857 mobile phones.

A few years ago, a relieved employee was reunited with his boss’ Rugby World Cup final thanks to some sterling work by Southern staff.

Martin, a Southern passenger, inadvertently left his bag on a Southern train which ended up at Southern’s Littlehampton cleaning depot. In the bag were tickets for the Rugby World Cup semi-finals and final – destined for his boss.

Luckily, Martin’s contact details were also in the bag so Southern staff at the depot pulled out all the stops to try to reunite Martin with his bag, and his boss with his tickets.

Thanks to some sterling detective work by Southern’s senior train presentation manager, Christine Smith, and senior customer relations manager, Julie Allan, the bag was collected at Govia Thameslink Railway’s head office by a colleague of Martin’s in time for the semi-final matches.

A very relieved Martin was full of praise for Christine and Julie.

He said, “I cannot thank you and your team enough. You really have saved the day.”

Christine Smith said, “As soon as I learned what was in the bag, I knew time was of the essence. I’m so glad that we were able to help Martin.”

Julie Allan said, “The quick actions of Christine and the staff at Littlehampton certainly turned what could have been an extremely disappointing experience into the best possible outcome. It was our pleasure to reunite Martin with the tickets.”

In addition to last year’s more usual, easy to categorise items, there were 1,744 other more unusual items including pets, a canoe and a leg.

Southern recently tweeted after finding a puppy at the station in Seaford.

They said, “Lost Puppy! Found outside Brighton station. He is now with our staff at Brighton. Do let us know if he belongs to you....”

The dog, a girl named Lulu, was quickly claimed on Twitter by her very worried and grateful owner, who lives in Seaford. Southern arranged for the pup to be driven from Brighton to Seaford where she was picked up by her owner.

Her owner Anne Silley Tweeted after being reunited with Lulu. She said, “A huge thank you from the owners of Lulu- she was well looked after and spoilt by the kind staff at Brighton station.

“Special thanks to the train driver who looked after her from Seaford to Brighton. We will be making a donation to chestnut tree house on your behalf.”

Around 38 percent of lost items make it home to their owners, which Southern says is above industry standard.

Julie from Southern explains what happens to lost items when they are found on the train by staff of handed in by passengers.

She said, “Once handed in or found by staff or other customers, items are logged by individual stations prepared for collection.

“All of the items are then transferred to our central lost property office in Victoria. A team of four are based here who log lost items on our database.

“Their aim is to reunite people with their property so they’ll also search for anything on the lost items which could help to identify the owner. Items logged are also cross referenced with customer enquiries to see if they match the descriptions of any items reported as lost, whether online, through customer relations or on Twitter.”

Lost items are kept for 90 days, in line with the guidelines in the National Rail Conditions of Travel, before being auctioned off or disposed of.

Julie added, “Losing your belongings is frustrating and can be very upsetting.

“We retrieve thousands of items every year across our route. The message is a simple one, keep all of your belongings with you and remember to take them with you when you leave the train or station.”