SNCB improved the rate of return for lost objects in 2021 by 12% over the year prior, and by 15% compared to 2017, according to a press release from the Belgian railway company.
In 2021, 50% of lost objects were returned to their owners, compared to 38% in 2020 and 35% in 2017. When it comes to wallets, the rate is even higher at 80%.
“This increase is due to the improvement of SNCB’s service, which makes it easier to report losses and improves the deposit system and the description of objects. It’s now easier for the owner to find his property,” the company said in a statement.
How to report a lost item
Passengers who forget or lose an item on a train, on the platform or in a Belgian station can fill in a loss declaration form available on the SNCB website. Customers who lose several objects (for example, a backpack containing various items) can fill out one form, selecting the option for “bag” and then adding what it contains.
They’ll receive an email confirmation and the search for the item will begin immediately, with an update on the progress seven days later and another after 20 days.
Tens of thousands of lost property reports are filed each year, SNCB says. Between 15,000 and 20,000 items are returned to their owners each year.
The journey of a lost-and-found object
A lost object, when found by an SNCB employee or a passenger, is entrusted to the station staff who are then responsible for finding its owner. The object remains in the station where it was found for 7 days before being sent to one of the depots spread throughout the country.
If the item found matches the description in a declaration, the traveller is notified directly and can collect the item free of charge for 7 days, but once the item has been placed in a depot, the traveller must pay €5 to cover the service fee.
The traveller can then choose the most convenient depot to collect the item.
If no owner is identified, or if no traveller has claimed the item, the items are donated to “Les Petits Riens” after 50 days, an association that collects, sorts and sells second-hand goods while supporting people on the path to socio-professional integration.
“One day we found a groom’s suit, left on the platform,” an SNCB employee recalled. “The owner was found and contacted 3 or 4 days before the wedding.”
Other unique objects found by SNCB include a fridge, a cello, a wheelchair, a crutch, a double bass, a satellite dish, a gravestone decoration and a pole for a dance bar.
The top five categories of lost items in 2021 were bags/suitcases, electronic equipment, clothes, wallets/purses and keys/key rings.
“Clients who find their belongings are very grateful,” an SNCB employee said. “Sometimes, for simple objects with a lot of sentimental value, emotions take over. For others who have lost an important object, such as a thesis, the relief is indescribable.”