Implementing a new vision at Virgin Trains
A Virgin Trains case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Virgin Trains is known for running high quality, fast and reliable state-of-the-art trains, capable of speeds of up to 125 miles per hour.

Virgin Trains operates the West Coast rail franchise with trains running along various routes including from Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham to London. The average journey time from Manchester to London today is just over two hours. Virgin Trains currently operates 333 trains and carries more than 62,000 passengers a day.

Until 1993, railways in Britain had been part of the public sector. They were run by an organisation appointed by the government called British Rail. The culture was one where managers passed down instructions and directions to employees who carried them out without questioning them. Since 1997, Virgin Trains has been running the West Coast and other lines as an independent private sector business.

Decentralised structure

Virgin Trains seeks to differentiate itself from other rail competitors in order to increase customer satisfaction and develop a train service fit for the twenty-first century.


The business is organised on a decentralised regional structure. Each region has a set of Managers responsible for the important operating areas. These Managers then link up with other regional Managers to share ideas and expertise. For example, the structure at Manchester's Piccadilly station links the station with the train crews:

Each region is able to focus on the commercial needs of its area. For example, the Scottish region focuses on developing services to include the local economy and particularly tourism. Each seeks to maximise the quality of services to customers, for example, by cutting unnecessary costs and waste.

New vision

In 2003, the Chief Executive of the company, Tony Collins, set out his vision for the company, which has transformed its operations. Virgin Trains' vision involves the empowerment of staff to take responsibility and ownership of their performance. This vision is what makes Virgin Trains different.

This case study looks at how this vision is transforming the culture and performance of Virgin Trains.

Virgin Trains | Implementing a new vision at Virgin Trains