Public affairs: Virgin Trains with Fishburn Hedges

How the West (Coast) Was Won

This campaign demonstrated that done well, PR packs a powerful punch. When the Department for Transport announced the West Coast rail franchise was to be stripped from Virgin Trains and awarded to rival First Group, Virgin Trains had one objective: reverse the Government’s decision against all the odds.

Together, Virgin Trains and Fishburn Hedges created and executed a fierce public affairs and media relations campaign that generated unprecedented scrutiny of the decision.

The campaign won huge support from the public – 170,000 signed an e-petition calling on the Government to reconsider its decision, which triggered a parliamentary debate. It also won the backing of the Labour Party, while high-profile celebrities Stephen Fry, Alan Sugar and Mo Farah supported the campaign.

The PR team’s determination paid off. The Department for Transport cancelled the procurement process after saying that it was flawed.It eventually reversed its decision and awarded the contract back to Virgin Trains.

It is also running reviews into franchising policy and government decision-making to stop the same problems happening again.Impressive results for a PR campaign.

"A very clear winner. Shows what can be achieved by public affairs, and in a short space of time. The ramifications of the campaign and its outcome have been felt right across government"

Stuart Thomson Public affairs consultant, Bircham Dyson Bell

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