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Industrial Virgin on the ridiculous: £1 billion for poor train service

As RMT members on Virgin’s West Coast line strike over workplace equality, Branson continues to rake in £46.33 per train mile

CORPORATE bully Richard Branson will be pulling gold out of his Christmas pudding this year as new figures showed his Virgin Trains firm raked in more than £1 billion despite a history of poor service.

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members on Virgin’s West Coast line are set to walk out today in a dispute over workplace equality and justice as it was revealed that Mr Branson’s company made whopping profits on the service last year from passenger revenue alone.

The company made an astonishing £46.33 per train mile, with Mr Branson filling his boots while rail fares continue to rocket.

And the Virgin East Coast line was not far behind, creaming an astonishing £708 million revenue per year as it made £48.49 per train mile from passenger fares — while its workers are balloting for strike action over pay.

The study, compiled by the Cambridge Economic Policy Associates in collaboration with rail consultancy SYSTRA, revealed the huge sums train companies are making at the expense of passengers. Fares on Britain’s privatised rail network are among the most expensive in Europe, lining the pockets of the likes of Mr Branson.

However the RMT accused rail regulator the Office of Road and Rail of trying to bury the report on its website.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the news would be “hard to stomach” for those taking strike action for workplace justice and those balloting for action over pay and working conditions.

“With the government lining up a £2bn taxpayer-funded rescue operation for Virgin’s East Coast operation, while the company is already raking in the best part of a £50 note per mile, the travelling public will be demanding to know why rail in Britain has descended into this outright chaos at their expense.

“With the Virgin boardroom clearly awash with cash there is no excuse whatsoever for the company to refuse their workers pay and workplace justice,” he said.

The cash flowing into Virgin’s coffers outstripped even that of the lucrative London and South East commuter services, which includes the notorious Southern Rail. Despite being criticised for its poor performance, revenue was a healthy £38.81 per passenger mile.

Mr Branson fought an aggressive campaign to keep hold of the West Coast line after Virgin was stripped of the franchise in 2012. The contract was initially awarded to FirstGroup, however the greedy Virgin boss flexed his corporate muscle and threatened to sue the government, branding the decision “insane.”

Similar bullying tactics have been employed by Virgin in the NHS where it has taken legal cases against a number of NHS Trusts for daring to award health contracts to seemingly more qualified providers.

In Surrey it appears that Virgin was paid an astonishing £82m of NHS money as part of a settlement after they missed out on a contract to provide children’s services, which was awarded to a consortium formed by in-house NHS providers and a social enterprise.

And Mr Branson continues to dip into the public purse with the government set to hand over a £2bn bailout for Virgin’s East Coast line.

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