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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 06:29 GMT
End of the line for passenger password
By Fergus Hewison
BBC News, London

Do you wish there were parts of your late night journey home you could miss out? An area you feel is unsafe perhaps.

Clapham Junction
Clapham Junction has stopped the password system

Well once upon a time, if you whispered the right thing to a member of staff, you could do just that at Clapham Junction railway station.

But if the existence of this somewhat odd arrangement is news to you, there is now no point in trying to take advantage of it, because it has been abolished.

Legend has it however, the system had been in place between people who lived locally and staff at Britain's busiest railway station in south London, for years.

People travelling late at night would whisper a password - usually a cartoon character - and staff would allow people to cut through the station and out of the back without buying a ticket.

This was so they could avoid a badly lit and deserted alternative route, which runs under a railway bridge on Falcon Road.

We phone each other on our mobile phones, so that at least if we do get mugged someone will hear it
Passenger Sarah Driver-Jowitt
South West Trains, which runs Clapham Junction, said it decided to abolish the system because it was being abused by people who did not live locally and just wanted to save cash rather than benefit from the shortcut.

The decision has angered the "legitimate" users.

On of those is Sarah Driver-Jowitt, who used the password system regularly and says its scrapping has compromised her, and other women's, safety.

"My girlfriends and I, who live on this side of the railway station definitely all feel intimidated," she said.

"We have a system whereby we phone each other on our mobile phones, so that at least if we do get mugged someone will hear it.

'Passenger safety'

"It's very upsetting to have to do this."

The man who made the decision to stop members of the public using the password is Clapham Junction's deputy station manager, Joel Mitchell.

He has responsibility for the 11m people who use the station every year and the 3,500 trains that travel through it every day.

He argues the password system was abolished in the interest of passenger safety.

He said: "The whole atmosphere of the station has changed.

"Certainly in my role we have far, far less calls now to deal with from people who are causing an issue on the station.

Cab journey

"I do accept there is a small minority of people who have been inconvenienced by this, and I do apologise for that, it was a real shame that it was being abused by so many people to affect the minority as such."

Mr Mitchell said that since the password system ended in February, takings in the ticket office have gone up, demonstrating the extent to which it [the password system] was being abused.

The alternative journey under the railway bridge only takes a few minutes but for Ms Driver-Jowitt - and other women who have to make that trip in the evening - it could just as well be a mile.

Now at night she often resorts to taking a cab the 500 yards home.

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