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Consensus Management with Virgin Train

Virgin group of companies is an international, British branded company that was founded by Richard Branson in the late 1980s. The companies base their business areas to entertainment, travel and lifestyle. Virgin group of companies comprises of 400 companies that are spread worldwide. The headquarters of the company is based at The School House based in Fulham, London. Since the business practices of the companies are independent and diverse, the style of management practiced is supportive and collaborative, however, at the end of the day, the companies all report to Richard Branson. This helps them to develop the best guidelines needed for the best customer service standards and better brand management. This is done to ensure, that despite the diversity in the companies operations, the companies maintain their consistency in good quality products.

Virgin management is tasked with the role of ensuring that the business is run in a responsible manner that is only geared towards corporate responsibility and sustainable development. This meant that businesses are to be run in a responsible way that sacrifices growth and profits for the sake of sustainability. The management team is also in charge of analyzing the main business trends in the market, the opportunities available, the risks involved and the global issues at hand. All the companies have to give contributions within their sector. In addition to this, every company has to maintain the company brand quality. Thus, every company has a Product Story written.

A product story is a description of the company and the operations it performs on a daily basis. It acts as a journal for the company. The objective of the product Story is to outline the corporate responsibility and sustainable development issues a company undergoes in their daily operations. This allows the overall management to understand the shortcomings and strong points of the company. This helps the board to implement the measures needed to improve the company and its customer’s satisfaction. Thus, the customers can live more sustainable lifestyles. Richard Branson posses the ownership and complete control of the virgin brand; however, each company under the virgin brand is a separate entity. The brand name of the Virgin brand ‘Virgin’ originated when Branson and his partner opened their first business. They considered themselves virgins in the business world, hence the name stuck. This was in 1979.

One of the companies Virgin has established is Virgin Trains in Britain. The trains offer long distance passenger services on the WCML (West Coast Main Line) that runs between London, North Wales, Scotland, North West England and the West Midlands. Virgin Trains were created to take advantage of the transport sector when the British Rail was privatized in the mid-1990s. The train company successfully won two rail franchises that operated legally although separately. These were the Inter-City West Coast which later became the Virgin West Coast and the Inter-City Cross-country which became the Virgin Cross-country. However, the two were marketed as a single brand. However, in 2007, Virgin Train lost its Cross-Country franchise to the Arriva group. Hence, the services offered by the Virgin Cross-Country were transferred to Arriva with the exception of those between Scotland and Birmingham.

In 1997, Virgin introduced electric tilting trains with 140 mph known as Class 390 Pendolino. These trains were used in the West Coast Main Line network, and they represented the biggest rolling-Stock order in British history. The routes previously covered by the Cross Country trains were served by diesel run electric train with four coaches Class 220 voyager, and the five coach super voyager trains of class 221. By December 2004, all the rolling stock from the British rail had been replaced by the Virgin trains.  The West Coast Main Line was refurbished in a 9 billion sterling pound program that lasted three years. This allowed the WCML effectively   accommodated the new electric trains. Other changes that virgin introduced in the railway sector was that it replaced the on-board audio entertainment system found on train seats with on-board Wi-Fi.

This was a provision of T-mobile. Virgin Trains franchise with the West Coast was supposed to expire in 2012 March; however, officials pushed the date to January 2013. This was done to give the officials extra time to consult on the requirements of changing the franchise. Virgin Train however, was not pleased by the extension as they had requested for a two year extension an offer that was rejected by the transport sector on legal grounds. Virgin trains have offered their customers a faster and more comfortable mode of transport that is also environmental friendly. This is because; Virgin trains are one of the most experienced train companies in the UK. This has been attained from 12 years of experience in the market.

The management team of Virgin Trains is headed by Tony Collins who is the Chief Executive Officer since 2004. Initially, he took up the role of deputy CEO and his role was managing business contracts Virgin Train signed. One of the major contracts he championed was one that included the delivery of its new fleets of trains as well as, the contract responsible for the infrastructure upgrades of the Network Rails. Before he joined Virgin Trains, he was the commercial director of a trains company known as Alstom. This company was the sole provider of the Pendolino trains Virgin purchased. The next key member of the management team is Chris Gibb. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Virgin Train, a position he has held since February 2008.

Before taking up this post, he was the Managing Director of Virgin Trains. Paul Furze-Waddock is the Business Development Director of Virgin Train. He has held the position since October 2009. Andy Cross, on the other hand, is the Business Support Director of the company. This means that he is in charge of the procurement, IT and contracts. He has been working for Virgin Trains since 1999, and he was responsible for the replacement of Virgins rolling Stock fleet in 2004.

Arthur Leathley is the Communications Director at Virgins Trains.  He joined Virgins trains in November 2004 after working as a journalist at The Times. Graham Leech is the company’s Executive Director, Commercial. He oversees the national marketing campaigns of the company. In addition to this, he successfully set up a website, thetrailine.com where customers can make enquiries and suggestions. He also manages the company’s revenue as well as its train’s capacity. Patrick McGrath is the Human Resources Director of Virgin Trains. Despite the fact that he joined the railway industry in 1991, he joined Virgin Trains in 1999 and has held this position since. Phil Whittingham is the Finance Director of Virgin Train.

He became the director in 2008 and his role entails monitoring the business transaction plans and the financial books. He had worked as the finance director of the West Coast trains before he joined the executive team of virgin Trains. The last member of the executive team is Phil Pacey. He is the director of New Rail Projects of Virgin Trains. He joined the company in January 2011. His main responsibility is to help the management team in exploring other better opportunities. He also helps the company in bidding for long distance franchises in the United Kingdom among other ventures that make the company grow.

The corporate culture of the Virgins group of companies, together with the decentralized structure of management structure and the strength of the product brand, is a formula for commercial accomplishment that rival companies have been unable to follow. The projected growth in the number of passengers on the West Coast routes necessitated the increase in the length of Pendolino sets which now carry, 11 vehicles. In addition to this, the DFT has bought two extra coaches to accommodate 31 of the 52 sets. These are to be enhanced by four totally new car trains. The order on these new car trains was expected to be completed by May 2012. This shortly followed the franchise change that happened in April 2012. Richard Branson went further to initiate a campaign to convince officials to extend the next franchise period with 20 to 30 years. This was so that Virgin Trains would successfully be able to spend more on improving the infrastructure and get returns on their investment. This, he claimed, would reduce the journey time between London and Birmingham by 22 minutes.

Virgin’s services along the WCML are run by a fleet of 52 nine-car of the Class 390 Pendolino EMUs. Virgin Trains also operates Super Voyager tilting DMUs, 21 five-car Class 221. These cars mainly run on the WCML on the North Wales line and to the north of Birmingham. In addition to these, virgin operates 16 Class 57 diesel trains, although four are now under Arriva Trains Wales. The main objective of these trains is to rescue failed locomotives.  Moreover, Virgin Trains has agreed to sign a lease with a DVT on some dedicated Mark 3 coaches. This set, commonly knows as the ‘Pretendolino’, has been fixed up to meet the same high standard as the Pendolinos and Super Voyagers. Some of theses improvements include; Wi-Fi and a full external re-paint haven been implemented, re-upholstered seating and power points. Virgin Trains uses this set alongside the Class 90 trains that were hired from the Freightliner on the 18:43 route from Euston to Crewe through Birmingham. The locomotive also serves as a back up in the event that a Pendolino or Super Voyager broke down.

Virgin Trains has made several achievements in the industry the greatest one being the coveted Investors in People (IIP) Gold status award. They achieved the tribute in December 2010. This is because; they attained the Gold standard by 191 indicators. This was 29 points more than the required number to meet the standard. The assessors praised Virgin Trains for their Vision.  Moreover, the assessors discovered that Virgin Train’s staff is motivated to accomplish the objectives of the company. In addition to this, they are committed to securing high levels of customer fulfillment as well as ensuring the development and growth of the company. The assessors also established that the staffs in the company are very well-informed about the roles they are supposed to play in the growth of the business, and they also posses a strong learning culture. This has been a major boost to the company since highly skilled staff translates to high quality goods and services.

Virgin Train Company has over the years made an effort to be socially responsible. The company recognizes the impact their activities have on the environment ranging from carbon emissions to noise pollution. This is, therefore, the reason why the company has been doing everything to reduce the negative impacts and at the same time increase the positive impacts. The company, moreover, aims at challenging the assumptions the general public has about them and to deliver solutions that are innovative and environmental friendly to their problems. Some of the other objectives the company hopes to achieve are sustainable development in railway industry, to reduction in carbon emissions and to increase their energy efficiency, to guarantee safety and security for its passenger’s on a daily basis, to reduce waste products and recycle waste, to introduce employee empowerment programs and to practice more community work both in the home country and abroad.

Since passenger rail network became privatized, railway companies and their customer relations departments have faced numerous challenges on the best way to satisfy their customer needs and expectations. They have also been unable to meet certain service targets that are set by the Rail Regulator. Therefore, Virgin Trains came in the picture to try and solve the questions the consumer service were unable. The company set out to create a service that would deliver fast and quality customer service. This service was designed to meet not only the expectations of the passengers but also the regulatory board. The service would also give Virgin Trains a competitive advantage over its competitors making them the most preferred carrier.

To achieve this, Virgin Trains realized that they needed to create a system that would:  track passenger grievances and work on the documentation accordingly, a system that would be flexible to suit the passengers needs as well as timely and informative. They needed to get an IT solution that would offer a complete customer database and document management system. This would guarantee faster response to customers. Information reporting tools were also necessary to follow up on the program and give feedback. This is what has contributed greatly to the success of the Virgin Trains in retaining the Virgin brand.