Inside TFL’s lost property office, where 300,000 items turn up a year

Curios include a prosthetic leg, urns of ashes and an unmarked envelope with £15,000 cash inside

Charlie Atkin
Monday 01 February 2016 15:20
Inside TFL's Lost Property office, where 300,000 items turn up a year

Londoners appear to be more forgetful than ever, as Transport for London’s lost property office received a record haul of missing goods last year.

More than 300,000 items were left TFL’s transport network last year, including aboard the tube, buses, overground trains, the DLR and even the Emirates Air Line cable car.

Manager Paul Cowan describes the office as a “wonder emporium”, where thousands of tablets. Umbrellas and wallets were handed in last year.

Aside from the daily haul of around 150 mobile phones, the office also receives some rather peculiar objects.

Curious finds include a full-size house carpet, a judge's wig and a hoard of musical instruments – “enough to start our own band” according to Mr. Cowan.

Last year 22% of the 302,714 items handed in were returned to their rightful owners including a brown envelope containing £15,000 and an urn of ashes that had been kept by workers at the lost property office for almost seven years.

Mr Cowan, who calls his job "one of the best", said the number of items lost on the network would increase as more passengers used the service.

"The number of properties lost is fascinating, every day we're getting well over 1,200 items of property found across the network, it's staggering," he said. "The volume continues to go up as the number of people living and travelling in London increases."

"Every item that comes in here has a definite story behind it. There's the usual suspects, umbrellas, hundreds of books and documents and travel passes, but dispersed amongst that there is all the things that make you scratch your head, what were they doing carrying that or what were they doing with it.

All items handed in to TFL end up at the three-storey building next to Baker Street station and are stored for three months before being donated to charity, sent to auction or recycled.

Each year thousands of umbrellas, items of clothing and bags are donated to the British Red Cross, Scope and the Salvation Army through the scheme.

Mr Cowan said: "There are many successes and it is one of the most gratifying parts of the jobs, because it is not just us involved. It could be the cleaner who finds the item on a train or a bus, it could be another passenger, it could be a member of TFL staff."

"Getting the item back to the customer and seeing the smile on their face is fantastic."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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