Virgin Trains has said there were empty seats on the train which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn travelled on by sitting on the floor and said was ‘ram-packed.’
Film footage released to the media showed Mr Corbyn sitting on the floor of a three-hour Virgin Trains service from London to Newcastle - which travelled through Peterborough and Grantham on the East Coast Mainline - claiming it was “ram-packed”.
CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.
The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle. Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey.
There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on.
On his film, whilst sitting on the floor, Mr Corbyn said: “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 the train are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody. The reality is there’s not enough trains, we need more of them.”
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.
The spokesperson added: “We know that some of our services on our east and west coast franchises are extremely popular, and it can be hard to find a seat. This usually happens in particular circumstances, for example when there’s a big sporting event, or on the first off-peak train out of London. Unfortunately we can’t do anything about cup finals or fares regulation, which could spread demand much more effectively if it was less of a blunt instrument. We have discussed regulation with the Government at various points over the last two decades and we’d be delighted to work with Ministers if they were interested in reviewing the fares structure for long distance services, with the aim of reducing the overcrowding that can sometimes occur.
“We can, however, rely on our fantastic on-board teams to help customers whenever possible and we’re delighted they could help Jeremy in this case. We can also invest in our services - for example, we’ve converted a first class carriage to standard on our 21 nine carriage trains on west coast, providing an extra 5500 standard class seats each day.”