Virgin Trains East Coast 'sorry' for Louis Smith check

Louis Smith Image copyright PA
Image caption Olympian Louis Smith and one other black passenger were asked to show their first class tickets on a train

Virgin Trains East Coast has apologised to Olympic gymnast Louis Smith after he claimed staff only checked the tickets of black people in a first-class carriage.

Smith, who was the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing champion in 2012, tweeted about the incident on Thursday evening.

He said only he and one other black passenger in the carriage were asked to show their tickets.

The company apologised and said it would be investigating.

Smith, who grew up in Peterborough and trained in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, documented the incident on his Twitter account as it was happening on a train from Peterborough to London King's Cross.

He described it as an "interesting and political" journey when he began tweeting shortly after 17:45 BST.

Smith said the member of staff serving refreshments in the first class compartment only asked two people to show their tickets - himself and one other black passenger.

None of the white passengers were asked to prove they had tickets for the carriage, he said.

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When the fellow black passenger was asked by the staff member to show his ticket, Smith wrote: "...he then asks if I have a 1st class ticket I said yes. He said can I see it I said yes but don't you believe me."

He said the waiter's actions had been noticed by a passenger who questioned the staff member about "why he's only asked the only two black passengers if they are meant to be in first class and to prove it".

Smith, who won the silver medal on the pommel horse at London 2012, went on to ask his 255,000 Twitter followers whether this was "just a coincidence or not".

Image caption Smith, seen here in 2015, has a number of Olympic, World, European and British championship accolades to his name

He said the passenger who queried the waiter's actions asked a senior member of staff on the train about it, who apologised, but said the waiter was allowed to ask about tickets if people were seated in first class.

Virgin Trains East Coast quickly apologised to the Olympian on Twitter, offering its "sincerest apologies" and saying the incident would be investigated.

A spokesman for the company told the BBC: "We're extremely sorry for the experience of Louis and fellow passengers.

"We are looking into the incident as a matter of urgency."

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