Wednesday, January 19

Jeremy Corbyn Defiant As Virgin Casts Doubt but Authority denied and accused him



Jeremy Corbyn’s team has insisted the Labour leader could not find an unreserved seat when he got on a train – amid a row with Virgin Trains.

The rail company took issue with Mr Corbyn after he complained in a video he had to sit on the floor because of completely ram-packed carriages on a service between London and Newcastle.

The politician was travelling on the three-hour Virgin Trains service on 11 August for a leadership hustings in Gateshead.

A video then emerged which showed him sitting on the floor, reading a newspaper, and saying “this is a problem that many passengers face every day”, before calling for public ownership of the railways.

But Virgin Trains has released CCTV images which appear to show him and his team walking past several empty unreserved seats in coach H at 11.07am and empty reserved seats in coach F at 11.08am.

He recorded his video message on the floor around 30 minutes into the journey before on-board staff found him a seat when two passengers were moved to first class, Virgin Trains said.

Footage from the train operator shows Mr Corbyn sitting down in an empty seat in coach H of the train at 11.43am.

The firm said there were additional empty seats on the train which were reserved but not taken, meaning they were available for other passengers to sit on.

Responding to Virgin Trains’ claims that seats were available, a Corbyn campaign spokesman 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.”

A Virgin Trains spokesman earlier said: “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 on board again.”

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who co-owns Virgin Trains with Stagecoach, posted a link to the images on his Twitter account.

Emma Rees, who was on the train with Mr Corbyn, questioned the timing of the CCTV footage emerging as “odd”.

Ms Rees, who is the national organiser for the Momentum Group which supports him, told Sky News: “This is a train journey that took place on 11 August.

“And yet Virgin Trains and Richard Branson, people who are opposed to Jeremy’s policy of bringing the railways back into public ownership, have waited until we are on the second day of the Labour leadership election.

“The ballots dropped yesterday, lots of people are voting. It does seem strange that they are bringing this up now, the timing is odd.”

Mr Corbyn’s leadership rival Owen Smith tweeted: “My campaign remains on track. Proud to be genuinely standing up for ordinary people.”

Labour MP and former acting leader Harriet Harman told Sky News: “There is a case for more public control or ownership of the railways.

“But I think you have to build that case on forensic facts and figures, not by sitting outside a toilet in a railway carriage, so I’m slightly baffled by that.”