Toilets and out of date thinking

Tom McCallum
4 min readApr 4, 2019

The photo above is of the beautiful concourse at Kings Cross Railway Station, opened in 2012 as an exquisite redevelopment and enhancement of a railway station originally opened in 1851. I visit this station relatively frequently to both journey to Scotland and to meet those coming to London to visit.

Now, despite the stunning and functional modernity of the building, up until this week it still showed a shining (probably not the right word!) example of six of the most dangerous words in business:

“we’ve always done it this way”

We are all sometimes guilty of this kind of thinking, but if we don’t challenge our assumptions, procedures, methods, decisions (and allow others to challenge us too!), we very much run the risk of our thinking become out of date.

In the case of Network Rail, operators of Kings Cross station, I’d say the example I am about to share was not just a little out of date, but even last century would have been out of date.

So, what was that out of date thinking by Network Rail at Kings Cross and other railway stations that they operated?

train station toilets

Yes, here we are in 2019 and in order to use the toilet at a Network Rail station such as Kings Cross you have to find coins and pay to go through a turnstile.

This was already an anachronism in the last century. Seriously, who in my lifetime would start a new business and charge customers to use the toilet?

Now, in the last ten years or so, even cash is becoming an anachronism in the UK, and particularly in London, where Transport for London (tFL) introduced the use of contactless debit cards on Tubes and Buses back in 2014. Once people started using contactless for travel, it rapidly became ubiquitous in London, to the extent that you can often go into a pub or cafe and see a sign that says “no cash, contactless only” as they collect so little cash it is not worth their while to keep their cash handling procedures.

So, while I always carry some cash in my wallet (though no coins),I really can’t remember the last time I used cash, I always use…



Tom McCallum

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