When it’s recently been announced that your rail franchise is going to be terminated three years early in a bailout costing taxpayers up to £2bn and your whole industry is in the spotlight after the steepest hike in fares for five years, you’d think a business would recognise that good public relations is an absolute must.
Not so Virgin East Coast (VEC), apparently.
A passenger complained to a Virgin train manager about a screw-up on the train operator’s part and was dismayed at the condescending sexism used in response – so she complained to the company’s Twitter account.
Which promptly responded in a way that you’d imagine is not in the PR handbook of how to retrieve a bad social media situation:
The outraged response of Twitter users suggested they were less than impressed with this ‘doubling down’, with one user tweeting that she had screengrabbed it in preparation for its inevitable deletion.
As indeed followed, with VEC tweeting about an hour ago:
This calls to mind a tweet from last summer by @edknock, who responded to an earlier embarrassment:
One can but hope.
When VEC’s unfortunate response was tweeted, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald had already issued a video calling attention to the huge fare increases and the Tories’ complete failures on rail travel – and reaffirming Labour’s commitment to renationalising the railways.
Ironically, East Coast Rail was profitable and popular when it was publicly owned from 2009-2015 after the failure of a previous franchise. Rail renationalisation, unsurprisingly, is one of Labour’s enormously popular policies, supported by around 60% of the population.
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains on the east coast route said: “We apologise unreservedly for this tweet and for the offence caused. To avoid causing more offence we have deleted the original post.”
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