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Virgin Trains boss shares leadership tips


The Head of Virgin Trains shared his tips for successful leadership to a packed audience at the University of Wolverhampton.

Chief Executive Tony Collins presented the annual Crystal Lecture, a joint venture by the Dr Anthea Gregory and Tony Collins University of Wolverhampton Business School and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The free event was attended by a full audience of business people from the region who listened to a talk on the subject of ‘Leadership the Virgin Way’ and then took part in a question and answer session.

Tony, who has awarded an Honorary Degree from the University, was presented with a piece of crystal artwork made by School of Art and Design student Tim Boswell as a thank you.

Tony spoke of his delight at receiving the honorary degree from the University in 2011, which was presented in recognition of his significant and successful contribution to the railway management and rail passenger service of Virgin Trains.

He said: “It was a fantastic privilege to be asked to deliver the annual Crystal Lecture.”

Dr Anthea Gregory, Dean of the University of Wolverhampton Business School, said: “We were delighted to welcome Tony back to the University to present the Crystal Lecture. He gave a thought provoking talk which will be invaluable to the region’s leaders. I am sure his sound advice to listen to your employees and build a vision with them will be an inspiration to many.”

Born in Sedgley in 1957, Tony Collins left school at 16 to start an apprenticeship with Rockwell-Thomson, a motor pressing manufacturer in Ettingshall. After five years of training he became a qualified chartered management accountant, rising to a Fellow of the Institute in 1987.

Throughout his career Tony has held a number of financial positions including at Austin Rover in Longbridge and Yale Fork Lift Trucks in Wednesfield. In 1989 he became Financial Director at GEC Cannon Industries based in Coseley.

In 1993 Tony moved to train building company, GEC Alstom Metro-Cammell, as Financial Director. As the privatisation of British Rail gathered pace, Tony spent time as Procurement Director and then Commercial Director, culminating in leading the negotiation team who sold the Pendolino Tilting Trains to Virgin.

In 1999 Tony joined the Virgin Rail Group as Major Contracts Director responsible for introducing the Pendolino and Voyager trains into passenger service and overseeing the upgrade to the West Coast mainline infrastructure.

In 2004 he became the Chief Executive based in Birmingham and today has responsibility for Virgin Rail business which carries 30 million people a year, employs 3,500 people and has a turnover of £900 million per annum.

Tony still lives in Sedgley with his wife and two children, one of whom has recently graduated from Wolverhampton. The University of Wolverhampton presented him with a Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration in September 2011.


Picture: Dr Anthea Gregory, Dean of the University of Wolverhampton Business School, presents Chief Executive of Virgin Trains Tony Collins with a piece of crystal artwork created by School of Art and Design student Tim Boswell.

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