Comment: A spectacular own goal from Virgin Trains

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you would expect a company owned by that master marketeer Sir Richard Branson to be extremely savvy when it comes to protecting its public image.

But Virgin Trains East Coast has scored a spectacular own goal with the sacking of catering manager Mark Doughty.

Mr Doughty has been dismissed by the train company after having the temerity to tell passengers exactly why they were being offered paninis instead of the full cooked breakfasts they had expected.

It is easy to understand why Virgin bosses might have preferred him to gloss over the fact that the train’s catering crew were shorthanded and its boiler had broken. But to dismiss him for telling the truth, as they appear to have done, is simply wrong.

The company insists that services will continue as normal over the bank holiday weekend despite industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union. It is not clear whether catering services on the trains are likely to be fully staffed. But if passengers happen to be served up, say, a limited buffet service on Monday as a result, most won’t mind a jot in the circumstances.

Their sense of justice has been offended and they will be stoic in the face of far greater hardship than that in their support of Mr Doughty.

It is not just companies that are more switched on about customer relations these days, consumers are too. It is extremely hard for firms to brush under the carpet any shortcomings in their services when customers, and their own staff, have instant access to 
Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.

Sacking an employee for being too frank with your customers is not only unfair it is extremely bad PR.

We can only hope that after Monday’s strike Virgin Trains listens to its own passengers and gives Mr Doughty his job back.