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Govia Thameslink boss in first class row

Southern train Image copyright Getty Images

A Govia Thameslink manager is under fire for telling passengers to stay out of a crowded train's first class cabin.

Emma FitzPatrick tweeted a picture of Mark Boon, head of network operations for Govia Thameslink Railway.

She said he told passengers not to occupy the "empty" first class section on a "very packed" train on Tuesday morning "while he took up two seats".

Govia Thameslink said all passengers needed a first-class ticket to travel in that section.

Ms FitzPatrick and Mr Boon were on a Southern service that arrived at London Victoria shortly before midday on Tuesday.

Mr Boon sat at a table in first class and placed his bag on the empty seat next to him, telling passengers without first class tickets they would need to remain in the standard class section.

Ms Fitzpatrick added: "I still can't believe it! He even handed his business card out to the people that he was turning away!"

A spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates Southern services, said: "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."

Ms FitzPatrick's tweets sparked a storm of criticism on social media, with some questioning whether Mr Boon had the authority to prevent standard ticket holders from using the first class compartment.

The row comes as Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Wednesday that improvements to Govia Thameslink services were "simply not happening quickly enough" and that passengers "deserve far better".

The operator is at risk of losing its franchise following widespread disruptions to services following timetable changes implemented in late May.

Govia Thameslink also operates Great Northern and Gatwick Express services as well as Thameslink and Southern.

The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, told Mr Lidington - who was standing in for Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons - that her constituents were used to chaos from GTR. However, she added that the "last seven weeks have been a new level of rail hell".

She called for action to be taken - and for the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, to be removed from his post.

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