Virgin Rail reckons it has invested £2 billion in the new Voyager and tilting Pendolino trains for its West Coast and CrossCountry lines, which account for some of the longest journeys in Britain, such as the 700-mile Penzance to Dundee service. Sir Richard Branson, who won the two 15-year contracts in 1996, wants to see his high-tech trains running at speeds of up to 140 mph, but delays to work on upgrading tracks have set back his plans. A compensation award of £90m has been cold comfort because the hold-up has gained Virgin – which is 49% owned by Stagecoach – a poor reputation with the public for punctuality. It is, however, one of the few Virgin companies to make significant operating profits of £34m on sales of £520m in 2002, when it had 3,869 staff.
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