The RMT union is warning passengers and staff of what it calls “a major hygiene and health and safety issue” on Virgin Trains East Coast.
It has published pictures that appear to show rodent droppings in the food preparation and kitchen area, on one of the trains operating on Britain’s flagship line from London to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
Mick Cash, the RMT general secretary, said: “It is frankly appalling that VTEC, an alliance of Stagecoach and Virgin, have allowed this rodent scandal to fester on their trains, regardless of the risks to staff and passengers alike from the exposure to these droppings and the obvious health consequences.
“Passengers paying through the nose to travel on these trains will also be rightly angry to hear about VTEC’s shocking attitude to hygiene and health and safety.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains on the East Coast route said: “This was an isolated incident which we believe was caused by a supplier. As soon as we became aware of this, we quickly acted to isolate the affected areas. These areas were then thoroughly cleaned before being put back into use.”
Tomorrow the RMT begins balloting its members on industrial action over what it says are “attempts to hammer staff with an imposed pay increase and associated attacks on working conditions”.
The East Coast franchise is ending three years early, to be replaced by what the Department for Transport calls “a new public-private partnership”.
The Shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said the decision showed “privatisation has failed and our railway should be brought back into public ownership”.