Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has been taken to task by the German railway after tweeting a photo of herself sitting on the floor of a train surrounded by lots of bags.

The 16-year-old Swedish activist drew sympathy after posting the image with the comment that she was travelling through the country on “overcrowded trains” on her way home from the UN climate change conference in Madrid.

The crusading youngster does not fly on planes because it is considered harmful to the climate.

Responding, rail operator Deutsche Bahn said they were pleased to have her aboard their eco-friendly train and welcomed her support “in the fight against climate change”.

But the company pointedly added: “It would have been even nicer if you had also reported how friendly and competent you were looked after by our team at your seat in first class.”

Deutsche Bahn has faced criticism in recent years for delays, last-minute train cancellations and expensive ticket fares.

Train tweet
Image: Deutsche Bahn issued a pointed response to Greta’s Twitter post

The episode has echoes of the controversy sparked by Jeremy Corbyn back in 2016, after he was filmed sitting on the floor of a “ram-packed” service, which he used to highlight the plight of train passengers in the UK.

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Virgin Trains subsequently disputed the footage and released CCTV, which it said showed Mr Corbyn passing empty seats as he boarded the train and later sat down.

In the picture on Twitter, Greta is sitting on the floor at the end of a carriage with her back leaning against a suitcase, staring out of a window.

There’s an empty food box next to her and more suitcases and backpacks piled up by her side.

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In the accompanying message, she wrote: “Travelling on overcrowded trains through Germany. And I’m finally on my way home!”

She later tweeted: “Our train from Basel was taken out of traffic. So we sat on the floor on 2 different trains. After Göttingen I got a seat.This is no problem of course and I never said it was. Overcrowded trains is a great sign because it means the demand for train travel is high!”

It comes after the teenager apologised for saying politicians should be put “against the wall”, after critics took it to mean that she was supporting violence.

Greta made the comment in a speech to young activists in the Italian city of Turin on Friday.

She later said she was making a literal translation from Swedish, in which the expression means to put someone on the spot with tough questions.

“That’s what happens when you improvise speeches in a second language.

“But of course I apologise if anyone misunderstood this,” she wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Greta had told the crowd in Turin that world leaders were running away from their responsibilities to fight climate change.

“We have to make sure that they cannot do that,” she said.

“We will make sure they, that we put them against the wall, and that they will have to do their job and to protect our futures.”

She later tweeted that she and the youth movement she inspired is against all forms of violence.

“It goes without saying but I say it anyway,” she wrote.

Greta was also recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for her efforts to press governments and others to take more rapid action in combating climate change.