Virgin wins train battle : Richard Branson announces victory

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Virgin wins immense PR battle

When Virgin discovered it would no longer be able to continue train services along the West Coast Main Line, it sent shockwaves across the company, and Founder Richard Branson faced an uphill battle to reverse the tide. In order to save part of the Virgin empire, he needed to get the public on his side to secure a miraculous Government u-turn.

It had been announced earlier this year that FirstGroup would be awarded a 13-year contract to run trains on the West Coast Main Line ending Virgin’s operations, which had started back in 1997. A PR battle quickly ensued as Virgin took on the news and established the facts, including how the process of the bid was fundamentally flawed. Branson quickly took the matter to heart, calling all his supporters, and reached out to the media to discuss why the FirstGroup bid was a shambles, and how it would eventually lead to their own bankruptcy. Virgin took the chance to prove its commitment, opinions flew left and right, and the company begain it’s battle for survival. An e-petition was soon launched by a Glasgow based web developer, Ross McKillop, which began to circle the web, and people joined in to ask the Government to review the process.

Virgin then announced in late August it would run the West Coast Main Line ‘for free’ to give Parliament enough time to review it’s decision to award the contract to FirstGroup. Virgin showed that it cared about its customers, and that their ‘fighting spirit’ would not be ignored. The campaign was very positive for customers, who felt that they could have a say in the future of their travel. Celebrities also backed it including TV chef Jamie Oliver, and double Olympic Gold medalist Mo Farah.

Over 100,000 people signed up to the petition before it was presented, and to-date, more than 170,000 signatures have now been registered.

The Department for Transport called Branson to confirm that the process had significant flaws and that FirstGroup would no longer be awarded the franchise. Check out Richard Branson’s blog for the full report.

This epic comeback is one victory Branson will surely remember, and paints a great portrait of how a company can work with the media and the public to secure its future. After all, this is what entertainment is all about, and audiences love a happy ending.

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