What makes Virgin special is its dedicated, talented people who always show up with a smile. I had the huge pleasure of meeting the teams at Virgin Trains recently, and it was easy to see why our train service has consistently been voted the top-rated franchise by customers in the UK.
We got a train up to Crewe from London Euston to join a session at their training academy to discuss responsible business. After a few coffees to wake us up (it was 7am after all), we got chatting to the crew onboard. Nearly everyone we spoke to were long standing members of the team – it was so lovely to hear how the Train Manager Andy Mortimer has been with us for 15 years and Catering Manager Antonio Mussage had been with us for 18 years. When we made it to Crewe I also met Vic Whitehouse, our inclusion lead, who has been with the Virgin Group for more than 22 years (but more on her lovely story later).
We spoke about how devastated we all are across the Virgin Group that our journey with Virgin Trains in the UK is coming to an end. I was 15 when Virgin Trains launched and I remember dad telling us all, at a family dinner, that overnight complaints against the trainline had increased 1,000 fold. Dad just couldn’t understand it – Virgin Trains hadn’t even completed its first journey! My Mum, in her usual straight-forward way, pointed out that customers had never thought to complain to British Rail as nothing would ever be done. With Virgin, they believed would be listened to – so the complaints flooded in. It would be a long time before we had new, world-class trainsbut that wasn’t the point. The amazing people at Virgin Trains rose to the challenge and transformed the entire service.
I’m passionate about people and the planet, and it was fantastic to sit down with the team in Crewe and hear about all the ways they are trying to be leaders in the fields of sustainability and inclusion.
Some of the incredible highlights include:
- Planning a greener future, both for Virgin Trains as a company, and in the way we work with our suppliers. We’re proud to be the first train operator to have a certified Environment Management System across our entire business.
- Each one of our stations has a Go Green Champion, who’s passionate about making Virgin Trains as eco-friendly as we can be
- Being the first train operator to help disabled people to book assistance and tickets using voice technology through Alexa
- Becoming the first travel company outside Northern Ireland to adopt the Jam Card, an initiative to help people with a communication barrier, and train colleagues to better support people with hidden disabilities
- Introducing the first Calm Corner at a station for neurodivergent people
- Being the first train company to sign the social mobility pledge
- Running a successful ex-offenders programme for many years
- Embarking on inclusive language training
- Supporting Pride and the LGBTQ+ community
I’m so proud of everything Virgin Trains has achieved – in 22 years they haven’t stopped innovating and improving. It’s such a special Virgin company, made up of brilliant minds and passionate people who want to protect the environment and make everyone feel welcome.