ScotRail refutes claims it bolted shut station toilets as ‘Hogwarts Express’ restarted

The toilets at Fort William station have been the source of complaints from the operator of the Jacobite steam train. Photograph: Alba.photos NO-F34-FORT-STATION-TOILETS-01-scaled.jpg
The toilets at Fort William station have been the source of complaints from the operator of the Jacobite steam train. Photograph: Alab.photos NO-F34-FORT-STATION-TOILETS-01-scaled.jpg

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ScotRail has denied it locked shut the toilets at Fort William station when the Jacobite steam train services restarted recently, after keeping the public loos open during the previous coronavirus lockdown stages.

The company’s comments came after Jacobite operator West Coast Railways (WCR) told the Lochaber Times: ‘Railway staff at Fort William kept the station’s public lavatories open all through the Covid-19 lockdown.

‘But as soon as the Jacobite steam train began to run again last month, they bolted them shut.’

And that, said WCR, caused a problem for hundreds of tourists as they queued to catch the popular service over the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig.

‘You could say it was a public inconvenience,’ said a spokesman for WCR, which operates the train, made more famous after it doubled as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies.

‘A lot of our passengers are not, how shall we say, in the first flush of youth. So some of them were left hopping from foot to foot desperate to spend a penny,’ added the spokesman.

‘We had to try and get them on board as quickly as we could so they could use the train’s loos.

‘I think ScotRail staff were worried that with the Covid-19 safety measures they might not have time to clean the public conveniences properly.

‘But if they had approached us and discussed the problem I’m sure we could have worked something out.

‘Instead it led to some awkward moments and unfortunately we have had to complain to ScotRail headquarters in Glasgow.

‘What seemed even more ridiculous was that the platform buffet was kept open. So our passengers could buy cups of coffee and tea – but not go and have a pee.’

The Jacobite steam train draws tens of thousands of visitors each year to Glenfinnan to see it cross the famous viaduct. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image. NO F26 jacobite steam train 01

ScotRail told the Lochaber Times that the station toilets at Fort William had not been closed but had remained open and have been operated by key-controlled use.

ScotRail said anyone wishing to use the toilets just had to request the key from station staff.

This is to allow the station team to manage the facility in terms of cleaning, replenishing stock levels, and people using the facility keeping a physical distance with the increased number of people now using the station.

The measures were put in place, ScotRail explained, to manage the increased passenger numbers as lockdown restrictions eased.