"Music to our ears": Virgin boss Richard Branson pleased by rail industry review

Branson called the remarks "music to our ears"
Branson called the remarks "music to our ears"
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The boss of Virgin, Richard Branson, says Keith Williams' review into the rail industry is "music to our ears".

This morning, Keith Williams, the former boss of British Airways, said he believed a "fat controller" organisation - independent of the Department for Transport - should run the day to day operations of the UK rail industry.

Virgin Trains currently operates the West Coast line with Stagecoach.

Virgin Trains currently operates the West Coast line with Stagecoach.

In a blog post on the Virgin Trains website, Mr Branson said Mr Williams' comments were "music to our ears".

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Mr Williams, who has been tasked by the government with reviewing the rail system, also recommended that franchises should come with punctuality and capacity targets.

Train passengers suffered through chaos late last year after a new timetabling system caused major disruption.

In 2018 punctuality reached a 13-year low.

Mr Branson said that his company "completely agree" with Mr Williams' views on "the Government having to ‘step back’, the need to make ‘tough decisions’ and the comparison with aviation".

The billionaire insisted that the government needed to "pause, reflect, and give Mr Williams a chance to report his conclusions instead of pressing ahead with awards under a system that no one wants to continue".

But Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said it believed "Keith Williams had been hand-picked by Chris Grayling and the Tories to try and get them off the hook over the privatised chaos on our railways".

Mr Cash said the union felt "Keith Williams would side 100% with his big-business mates and duck the issue of public ownership of the railways - the option supported by over two-thirds of the British people.

"He has and after months of deliberation has come up with the classic cop-out of another unaccountable quango."