Virgin trains have hit out at participants in Jailbreak 2013, calling the charity hitchhike “theft”.
In the week after teams made it to Berlin, Paris and even Disneyland to raise money for children’s cancer charity KidsCan, a Virgin spokesperson stated that Jailbreak “negatively impacts on their customers” and has caused “severe disruption in the past”.
Virgin trains proved the most difficult for Jailbreakers to use in their fundraising bid – one team were handed a fine of over £150 each when caught hiding in the toilet of a Virgin train from Manchester to London.
James Hind, one of the members of the group who received the fine, said “It’s pretty cold-hearted. Jailbreak is for a children’s charity.”
The team did try to argue their case, both in person to the ticket inspector and via a letter to the company, to no avail.
“One of my team members has written a letter to them, but they basically just spewed back a load of legal jargon at him,” said James.
“I don’t think many teams have a team of lawyers at their disposal.”
James’ team eventually made it to France with the help of another train company.
“When we used Southwestern trains they were much more lenient, we explained quite honestly what was going on and they were way more understanding,” he said. A spokesperson for Virgin said: “We never ever allow Jailbreak activity on our trains. We just don’t allow it. It has caused some severe disruption in the past, up to and including having to call British Transport Police.”
“Students are entitled to fundraise in any way they want, but they can’t undertake Jailbreak activities on our trains.
“They all get the same answer. If they ask in advance, it’s ‘no’. If they arrive without warning, they won’t be allowed to travel on our trains without a valid ticket.”
Other Jailbreakers ran into difficulty with Virgin trains, too. Team Abbie & Taylor also made it to France on their hitch, using the generosity of companies along their way. Only one company rebuffed them – Virgin.
“The only guy who said no was with Virgin trains,” said team member Abbie Heap. “We were telling him the cause, and he was really harsh – he was saying ‘I don’t care, I don’t care’.
Abbie went on to say Virgin’s attitude towards Jailbreak is “wrong”.
“It’s once a year, and it’s for charity, it’s not like you’re trying to go for free and you’re going to spend all your time in London, you’re not doing it for that reason.
“You’re doing it for a good cause, you’ve got your t-shirt on and everything. I don’t think they should be so harsh.”
Portia Bailey, the chair of Jailbreak organisers Manchester RAG, said, “We do advise all our Jailbreakers to get permission before they get on – it’s not theft if they’re given permission.
“Realistically though, if it came down to it, you’d hope train drivers would look at what we’re raising money for and say ‘look, this doesn’t happen every week, it’s a rare occurrence, we’ll let you off, just get off at the next station’.
“A lot of other train companies, ferry companies and air companies are more than happy to let people on, we are raising money for kids with cancer, which is obviously a really important charity.”
When asked about the allegations that Jailbreak “negatively impacts on Virgin customers”, Portia said: “Seeing the company they probably use on a regular basis supporting students to raise thousands of pounds for children with cancer can surely only put a smile on their customers’ faces!”
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