Private railway company Virgin Trains attacks Jeremy Corbyn over video to highlight overcrowding

Company says there were seats free on the train while party leader recorded a piece sitting on the floor

Jon Stone
Tuesday 23 August 2016 17:47
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CCTV shows Jeremy Corbyn taking a seat on train after filming himself sitting on the floor

A private railway company has attacked Jeremy Corbyn after he made a video to highlight overcrowding on their trains.

Earlier this month Mr Corbyn sat on the floor of a Virgin train to Newcastle to record a video, noting that “this is a problem that many passengers face every day”.

Virgin Trains, which was recording Mr Corbyn and other passengers using CCTV cameras, has released still images that it says shows free seats on the train where the video was recorded.

Several pictures were released by the company. One appears to show Mr Corbyn walking past a carriage of seats with reservation tags on them. Others show Mr Corbyn returning to his seat in an area with some vacancies. Some passengers can be seen standing in the vestibule area near the seats.

Anthony Charles, the videojournalist who filmed the original video, however said the CCTV footage came from after the video was shot and some passengers had got off the train.

He posted additional photos and videos of other passengers sitting on the floor and Mr Corbyn walking through the crowded train.

"Video footage of Corbyn sitting down is after he filmed video. And after people got off," he said.

Mr Corbyn did not claim that he was unable to get a seat at the time of recording the video. He said in the recording: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day on the trains – commuters and long-distance travellers,”

“Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff on this train are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody.

Jeremy Corbyn is seen to sit down in an empty seat

“The reality is there’s not enough trains, we need more of them, and they’re also incredibly expensive. Isn’t that a good case for public ownership?”

A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: “Our people deliver first-rate customer service day after day and we’d like to thank Jeremy Corbyn for highlighting this with the media.

“He’s also right to point out the need to introduce more trains on our route – that’s why we’re introducing a brand new fleet of 65 Azuma trains from 2018, which will increase seating capacity out of King’s Cross by 28% at peak times.

“But we have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case. We’d encourage Jeremy to book ahead next time he travels with us, both to reserve a seat and to ensure he gets our lowest fares, and we look forward to welcoming him onboard again.”

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn said: “When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat.

"Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

"Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

Mr Corbyn has long advocated the return of the railways to public ownership, while Virgin Trains has profited significantly from privatisation.

Last year the company's east coast branch, which is 90 per cent owned by Stagecoach group, took over the East Coast Mainline, which was temporarily publicly run until last year.

Passenger satisfaction with that service fell from previous record levels in figures released at the start of this year, half a year after Virgin took over the service.

The company was also accused of scrapping some of the cheapest advanced tickets from its trains in July last year.

Responding to Virgin Trains’ claims that seats were available, a spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign said: “When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat.

“Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

“Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

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