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The recession poses a question to businesses. In the face of declining demand do they work even harder, cutting margins and providing a great service to attract customers in a buyers’ market? Or do they adopt a slash and burn policy of making money wherever they can regardless of the longer term consequences for their brand. Of course, companies with monopolies will be more likely to adopt the latter approach - Virgin Trains being a case in point.

Last week I was forced to cough up three times the pre-paid cost of my train ticket from Manchester to London because I caught a train 30 minutes earlier than the one I was booked on to. There was no lack of unreserved seats on the train I caught and, had there been, I would have been happy to stand. Indeed, given that the pre-ordered ticket was reduced price I would have accepted paying some kind of inconvenience fine. But for Virgin the issue isn’t fairness - it is screwing the passenger. This may be why the ticket inspectors treat those who are on the wrong train (there were three in my carriage alone) as if they are fair dodgers.

What is really galling is that while Virgin is charging me £48 for my minor misdemeanour of travelling I am unable to get any recompense for Virgin’s many failings. Late trains, closed buffets etc. This morning on the way to Birmingham I was next to an overactive heater. To avoid expiring I was down almost to my underpants by the time we reached New Street. I have little or no choice but to use Virgin and to pay even more to do so next year. But in a classic Taylor act of impotent rage I will spend the rest of life avoiding any other product with the Virgin brand.


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