A commuter claims this picture shows a Southern Rail boss taking up TWO seats in first class on a packed train – after preventing economy passengers from entering the carriage.
Emma Fitzpatrick says Mark Boon – Operations Director of parent company Govia – told passengers to stay out of the empty cart on a “late and very packed” service.
He then spread out in comfort – placing his bag on the empty seat beside him – while customers had to squeeze into the rammed doorway and adjoining carriage.
The image has sparked outrage on social media among Southern Rail passengers who have endured months of delays amid strikes by staff.
Hair stylist Emma, from Croydon, South London, claims Mr Boon was even handing his business card out to passengers as he turned them away.
Sharing the photo on Twitter, Emma wrote: “Totally shocked to see #GoviaRailway Head of Operations, Mark Boon, telling all commuters to stay out of an EMPTY First Class carriage on a LATE & very packed train this morning.
“Meanwhile he took up two seats IN there.”
She continued: “It was a London bound Southern Train that arrived into London Victoria at approx 11.45am this morning.
“I still can’t believe it. He even handed his business card out to the people that he was turning away! Talk about rubbing salt into commuters wounds.”
Emma said that she joined the train mid-route before it terminated at London Victoria. She described the other passengers as a “nice, quiet bunch of people”.
Mr Boon is Head of Network Operations at GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway), which operates Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern, and the Gatwick Express.
Hi LinkedIn profile boasts of a “career history spanning nearly 30 years that combines successful project management and day to delivery”.
He was crowned ‘Customer Service Manager of the Year’ while working for South West Trains in 2015.
And within 24 hours of sharing the photo, Emma’s Tweet had been shared 350 times – with plenty of outraged Twitter users sharing their disdain.
Richie Northcote wrote: “Disgusting. There’s going to be some kind of commuter/passenger revolt soon, I can feel it bubbling.
“The disgraceful service us regular commuters have to deal with would simply not be tolerated in any other country – and this guy is just rubbing salt in sore wounds.”
And Twitter account GoblinUsers, of Barking and Gospel Oak Rail Users’ Group, said: “Having had dealings with him in a past life when he was a station manager around 2003, I am shocked and amazed to see him in such a senior position.
“It certainly helps explain why GTR is such a useless outfit. I do feel sorry for the staff who work for him.”
Meanwhile several people questioned Boon’s authority to tell passengers not to sit in first class.
Paul Coles wrote: “Who is he to refuse people to sit down in first class? I doubt he has the authority.”
Another user, Kay, added: “He has no authority. He isn’t a revenue collector or guard. Therefore he can’t tell anybody what to do.”
And freight train driver Stringfellow Hawke, from South Wales, added: “He’s not an “authorised agent of the railway” under the conditions of carriage.
“It’d be like a cleaner refusing you access to first class.”
Meanwhile Sarah Cuppa, from Sussex, called Mr Boon a “scumbag”, writing: “Almost certainly been declassified if people are standing, as that’s standard practice on Southern.
“He’s just a scumbag.”
Emma Fitzpatrick, 33, said that Mr Boon had a “really awful manner” as he “dismissively” turned passengers away from approximately 10 empty first-class seats on the train.
She confronted him about his behaviour as the train pulled into London Victoria, telling him: “I can’t believe what you’ve done today. You should be hanging your head in shame.”
Emma said: “I got on the train at East Croydon at around 11.30am.
“It was a few minutes late and very busy, as always. People were squeezing just to get on.
“I had to run down the platform as the train pulled in before I found a space in the front carriage to get on and stand.”
But she added: “I saw First Class had just two men sat in there, so lots of spare seats – around eight or 10 available. So I started squeezing past those stood up, to go and sit in there.
“But then a lady told me the man there – pointing at Mark Boon, had told her not to sit in there as she had gone to sit down.
“I couldn’t believe it. Then she showed me the business card he had given her. I said, ‘You must be joking’, but another female passenger nodded and said he had said the same to her.”
Emma said she made her way to the first class compartment – where Mr Boon glanced at her and immediately told her the same thing.
“He didn’t even ask if I had a First Class ticket – he just looked at me and assumed I didn’t,” she said.
“He told me the carriage was for First Class passengers only. I was so shocked.
“I told him I was feeling a little unwell so I needed a seat, but he dismissively said to go and get some water or something, and looked back down at his phone.
“I told him I would sit down on the arm of a chair, so as to keep the First Class seats free.
“I was just blown away looking back at the men and women packed in down the train.”
Emma added that she did not want to cause an argument and make things uncomfortable for fellow passengers – but could not keep herself from addressing Mr Boon as the train arrived at its final stop.
“I said to him: ‘Mr Boon, I can’t believe what you’ve done today, telling people they can’t sit down. As someone who is Operations Manager of a company that clearly isn’t operating very well, shouldn’t you be focused on other, more important things?’
“’You shouldn’t be telling us where to sit or to stand up, you should be hanging your head in shame. I can’t believe you’ve done this’.
“And he just looked at me and dismissively said, ‘Just put it in writing’. He wasn’t sorry or embarrassed at all.
“I just feel, especially after all the cancellations, poor service and cramped conditions, that he should have been more sympathetic and try to repair the damage they have done.
“But instead he sat there brazenly with his name and title on his badge and his bag on a spare chair.”
Emma added: “I still can’t believe his awful, cocky manner. His non-caring, dismissive reply really shocked me.”
Govia Thameslink Railway has confirmed that Mark Boon prevented passengers from using first class seats during the packed service.
A spokesperson 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.”