Postcard from... Madrid


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The Independent Online


In Britain, they are now so  common that another one would barely cause a ripple of interest – but in Spain, the imminent creation of what are reportedly the country’s first pay toilets in a public building, in Madrid’s Atocha railway station next month, has whipped up a minor media storm.

A hefty percentage of Spain’s newspapers reported this month on the future charge (as from December, around 50 cents a visit); that the privatised toilets will be run by the Amsterdam-based company “2theloo” for the next seven years; that the development means there will be baby changing facilities at the station for the first time; and that Atocha’s toilets are currently most famous (or infamous) for “cruising”.

While Adif, Spain’s railway network company, explained in its press release that pay toilets like those in Atocha, the busiest railway station in Spain together with Barcelona Sants, are “something standard in  European train stations”,  with “high levels of satisfaction on the part of consumers”,  reactions have been mixed.

Consumer organisation FACUA has accused Adif of “an abusive and perhaps illegal measure to charge for going to the toilet”, asking in a press release: “Tomorrow will they charge for using the escalators?”

Paying for the toilet, in any case, is clearly a popular subject among Spain’s internet users: half a day after the news broke a brief article on the El Mundo website had produced 301 online comments beneath it.