A Govia Thameslink manager sat in an “empty” first class carriage on a “very packed” train and told other passengers to stay out of his section.
Passengers on a delayed Southern train on Tuesday morning watched as Mark Boon, head of network operations for the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, took up two seats in first class while passengers with baggage stood in standard class.
Emma FitzPatrick, a passenger on the service, tweeted a picture of Boon sitting at a table in first class with his bag occupying the empty seat next to him.
“I still can’t believe it! He even handed his business card out to the people that he was turning away!” Fitzpatrick wrote on social media.
A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway told The Independent: “Passengers need a first class ticket to travel in first class and there were other people with first class tickets in this compartment. This was an 11am off-peak service running just six minutes late and, while the front coaches were busy, there were seats and space in the rear coaches, as Mr Boon explained.”
This poor publicity for the train operator comes after Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and the Gatwick Express, was criticised by politicians earlier this year.
MPs in charge of the Public Accounts Committee expressed “deep concern” about the way the UK’s busiest franchise has been managed.
They said passengers “have suffered an appalling level of delays and cancellations since the franchise started in 2014” - at one point, fewer than two-thirds of trains arrived on time.
The chair of the committee, Labour’s Meg Hillier, said: “The operation of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise has been a multi-faceted shambles causing untold misery for passengers.”