Virgin Trains has hit back at Jeremy Corbyn's claim that he could not get a seat on a 'completely ram-packed' service and had no other choice than to sit on the floor.
Over a week ago, (Tuesday 16 August), video shot by freelance filmmaker Yannis Mendez showed the Labour leader sitting on the floor of a three-hour commute from London to Newcastle where he eventually faced off against challenger Owen Smith in an all-important debate. The gesture gained substantial traction in the media and on social media, with Corbyn suggesting public ownership of the line to solve the capacity issue.
Speaking in the video, Corbyn said: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody.
“The reality is there are not enough trains, we need more of them – and they’re also incredibly expensive, isn’t this a case for public ownership?”
However, the train company has issued a response to Corbyn’s claims of over-capacity today in a statement, along with CCTV images from the train, seeking to contradict his claim that the service was full. The below images also show him eventually seated on the service.
A Virgin Trains spokesperson 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 onboard again.
“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.”
Turning the furore to its advantage, the brand also used its media exposure from the clash to push a PR message that it is “introducing a brand new fleet of 65 Azuma trains from 2018, which will increase seating capacity out of King’s Cross by 28 per cent at peak times”.
Virgin Trains owner Richard Branson also questioned the Labour leader’s capacity claims.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) August 23, 2016
Keren Harrison, a woman who was on the train and took pictures with Corbyn that morning reinforced his story on Twitter however.
— Keren Harrison (@KerenOrient) August 23, 2016
Visibrain told The Drum that the resulting hashtag from the incident #Traingate was used 17,613 times.