A commuter claims this picture shows a Southern Rail train 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 manager of parent company Govia, which also operates Thameslink services - 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 as well as Thameslink passengers who have faced weeks of delays following a timetable change.

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 on Tuesday.

“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.

“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?”

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."

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."

Govia Railway have been under fire in Hertfordshire and Barnet over the way it has handled the new timetable change, with commuters facing delays and cancellations every day. To cope with the changes, first class has been declassified during peak hours until a new timetable is brought in on July 15.

What do you make of this? Should Mr Boon have handled the situation differently?