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Virgin Trains: Union Update

4 October 2012


Yesterday, the Department for Transport announced that the award of the West Coast franchise to First Group had been cancelled following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted within the government department.

This is the latest twist in the saga of the re-let of the West Coast Mainline franchise and follows on from Sir Richard Branson’s decision to challenge the basis of the government’s decision to give First Group the most highly lucrative of all train operating contracts[i].

What remains uncertain at present is who will actually operate the West Coast once the current franchise expires on Sunday 9th December.

Options include Virgin being granted an extension of some sort or the government stepping in with its Directly Operated Railways Ltd (DOR), a holding company which already runs the East Coast Franchise.

The latter option effectively means public ownership which for East Coast has seen its significant profits paid back to the tax payer and not into the pockets of shareholders and extremely wealthy entrepeneurs.

Whatever the politics of the situation, the debacle over the West Coast has left one group of people – the staff who operate the franchise - with a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in December, not to mention at some point in the future in the event that the franchise competition is re-run once the government investigation is completed.


Whether you remain with Virgin or are transferred to the Government owned DOR is yet to be seen but one thing is certain and that is that the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings/Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 will apply at the point of any transfer to another company.

TSSA has prepared a briefing paper regarding the TUPE arrangements which you can find by following this link:

If you have any queries about it or have any questions about TUPE that have not already been answered, please contact me on:

Staff Representatives

TSSA has a team of committed staff representatives at all levels of the collective bargaining process within the company and they have been playing a crucial part in ensuring that your concerns and fears are addressed by Virgin.

That duty will continue whether a TUPE transfer takes place, or not and especially because of the uncertainty around what will actually happen with regards to jobs, pay and conditions.

Your Reps will continue to keep you fully informed at every stage and we are putting in place arrangements for you to meet with your Reps to ask questions and raise your concerns.

Vacancies for Staff Representatives and Activists

Vacancies exist for TSSA staff representatives at certain locations so if you are interested in ensuring that you and your colleagues have a voice and that issues are accurately and adequately answered by the company, now is the time to come forward.

If you require more information, contact one of the Company Councillors or me (as above). TSSA has a sophisticated training and support arrangement in place for all staff reps so please give some time to reflect on what you can do.

To become a rep, you need to be a member of TSSA in the constituency that you wish to stand for. If there is a rep already in place, why not play a part as an activist? Call me for details.

Management staff reps

TSSA is recognised for collective bargaining for some managers but many are employed on salaries above the cut-off point. Virgin has put arrangements in place to appoint a large number of managers to act as representatives for the purpose of any TUPE transfer for people above that cut-off point.

As TSSA has a number of members amongst management staff we remain available and willing to represent the views of all our members, including managers. This includes legal representation, where appropriate, which the company appointed TUPE reps are unable to offer.


At an uncertain time, trade union membership is important because it means you have someone you can turn to for alternative advice and representation. It also means that you are supporting your colleagues because collectively we are always stronger. If you have a colleague who is not a TSSA member, get to join using the on-line form at:

[i] See research carried out by Dr Eoin Clark (see:

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