The operator of the East Coast mainline took the unusual step of releasing CCTV footage of the London to Newcastle service on 17 August, allegedly showing Corbyn in a seat moments after filming a video in which he called for renationalisation of the railways to stop overcrowding.
Corbyn released the video showing him sitting on the floor of the train vestibule on the way to Newcastle for a debate with Owen Smith, who is challenging him for the Labour leadership. In it he said: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day on the trains, commuters and long distance travellers.
“Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff on the train are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody. The reality is there’s not enough trains, we need more of them.”
In a statement, Virgin Trains took issue with Corbyn’s comments, saying it “clearly wasn’t the case” there were no seats available.
The company provided a timeline with CCTV stills and footage suggesting the Labour leader walked past a number of empty seats in two carriages, later returning to sit in an unreserved seat after filming the video. Virgin boss Richard Branson weighed in to the row, tweeting a link to the CCTV images.
A Corbyn campaign source was quoted saying the train operator’s version of events was a “lie” and that the Labour leader gave up his seat when other passengers were forced to sit in the aisles.
Smith made light of the row, posting on Twitter: “My campaign remains on track. Proud to be genuinely standing up for ordinary people.”