Privatisation the Virgin way

Virgin has many privatised contracts with the NHS. Is there any reason to believe his companies will treat the NHS any differently to the way they treat what used to be our railways?

“Sir Richard Branson will have taken at least £306m in dividends from Virgin Trains by the time the firm’s 22-year tenure as a rail operator comes to an end within the next 12 months.

Branson said on Wednesday the Virgin name could disappear from trains by November, after its joint venture partner, Stagecoach, was blocked from three franchises by the Department for Transport over its refusal to pay more into rail staff pensions.

Analysis by the Guardian indicates that Virgin Rail Group Holdings, the joint venture company, will have collected at least £600m since its launch in 1997, a figure that drew criticism from Labour. …

The final total is likely to be higher once this year’s dividend is declared when the company’s next set of annual accounts is published in October next year.

Branson’s Virgin Group owns 51% of the venture, giving him a £306m share of the overall dividend pot.

The remaining £294m was allocated to the Stagecoach transport group, whose largest shareholder is the Scottish businessman and Scottish National party donor Brian Souter, together with his sister, Ann Gloag.

The highest dividend in a single year was paid in 2009, when Virgin Trains paid out nearly £95m. The figure has hovered around £50m over the past three years.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “This money could and should have been used to invest in services and hold fares down, not siphoned off by shareholders.

“The railway should be run as a public service in public ownership. Instead, absurdly, its run in the financial interest of foreign state-owned companies and billionaires such as Richard Branson. If Virgin disappears from the railway as Branson warns, it won’t be missed by taxpayers or passengers. …””

One thought on “Privatisation the Virgin way

  1. But Owl, the entire purpose of the recent Tory led governments has been to redefine everything that was a public service which was driven by a service and quality motive, into a profit oriented business. Private industry has carefully redefined that, in my opinion, to be that substantial profit is guaranteed or they walk away (including exiting to leave the taxpayer to reinstate the service) and then go round the profit gravy train (no pun intended) yet again. All those lovely dividends could have been spent on service improvements! As a Governor of the Bank of England once remarked – there needs to be a moral imperative. So if the imperative is profit, so it is, and if it is service you get a different result. TTFN


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