EXCLUSIVE: Rail company apologises for homophobic incident

Tony Grew April 11, 2008
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The Customer Service Director of rail operator First Capital Connect has said she was “both appalled and embarrassed” by an incident at London St Pancras station when a gay couple were told to stop being affectionate.

The incident occurred at around 6:30am on Sunday, March 30th.

A public announcement was made by a First Capital Connect staff member, directed at the gay couple, requesting “passengers please keep their hands to themselves and refrain from kissing.”

A heterosexual passenger, Jean Lechmand, was so shocked at what he had heard that he complained to the train operating company.

“The behaviour of the gay couple was not lewd or lascivious,” he told

“In fact they were doing no more than any regular heterosexual couple does on a regular basis at train stations, on buses, in the streets and anywhere else loving couples happen to pass through.

“The announcement was not only out of line but hurtful and hateful.

“It was blatant discrimination against members of the public based on sexual orientation.

“Furthermore, it has the potential to cause a great deal of personal anguish.”

Mr Lechmand, who did not know the couple, later reported the incident.

He pointed out that the centrepiece of the £800m refurbishment of St Pancras station, which is now the terminus for Eurostar trains, is a 9m high sculpture of a couple kissing – a straight couple.

Karen Boswell, Customer Services Director for First Capital Connect, who operate the new Thameslink route out of St Pancras station, told

“The company has very high standards of customer service and we expect our staff to be professional at all times.

“It is therefore incredibly disappointing and upsetting to hear of the incident at St Pancras International station on 30th March.

“I personally led the investigation into this appalling, unacceptable incident and the member of staff in question will be dealt with very seriously indeed.

“My initial findings reveal that this particular individual made what she thought was a flippant, off the cuff remark, little realising that it could be interpreted as highly offensive.

“I genuinely believe there was no malicious intent but can understand how this stupid remark could upset many.

“And to then broadcast this comment through the entire station, believe me, this was not the voice of First Capital Connect but an astonishing error from one of the team.

“We will not tolerate homophobic, sexist or racist behaviour from any of our staff and I have made it clear to all our station staff that this kind of behaviour will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

“First Capital Connect employ over 2,100 staff in London and across the South East and employ staff from a great variety of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. We actively seek to reflect the communities we serve.

“Mr Lechmand contacted our customer relations department on 3rd April 2008 and we responded by email to him on 6th April.

“Due to the seriousness of this issue, I will be contacting Mr Lechmand personally to update him on our progress with the investigation.”

The Sexual Orientation Regulations became law just under a year ago.

They outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education, the disposal and management of premises and in the exercise of public functions.

For more information about the SORs click here.

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