Virgin Trains has stopped stocking the Daily Mail on its West Coast route, saying the newspaper was “not compatible” with its “brand and beliefs”.
The Daily Mail was one of a handful of newspapers the train operator sold in its on-board shop and gave away to first class passengers.
But the firm cited the paper’s stance on issues including immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment as reasons to stop stocking copies.
In response, the tabloid called the decision “disgraceful”, an attack on freedom of speech, and suggested that the decision was due to the Daily Mail‘s pro-Brexit stance.
In a leaked memo to employees, which first surfaced in train drivers union ASLEF’s monthly journal, Drew McMillan, head of colleague communication and engagement, said: “Thousands of people choose to read the Daily Mail every day.
“But they will no longer be reading it courtesy of [Virgin Trains]. There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights, and unemployment.
“We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the [Virgin Trains] brand and our beliefs. We won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.”
Virgin Trains is a separate franchise to Virgin Trains East Coast, although both are joint ventures backed by Stagecoach and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin.
The Government announced in November it would allow the contract for the East Coast rail franchise, jointly run by Stagecoach and Virgin Trains, to end three years early in 2020.
Virgin and Stagecoach in 2015 agreed to pay £3.3bn to the Government to run the East Coast franchise until 2023.
Last month, Labour peer Lord Adonis described the decision to allow Stagecoach and Virgin to withdraw from the franchise as a taxpayer-funded “bailout”.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail said: “It is disgraceful that, at a time of massive customer dissatisfaction over ever-increasing rail fares, and after the taxpayer was forced to bail out Virgin’s East Coast mainline franchise – a decision strongly criticised by the Mail – that Virgin Trains should now announce that for political reasons it is censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers.”
The spokesperson added that it was “equally rich that Virgin chose to launch this attack on free speech in the ASLEF trade union journal”.
The newspaper said Virgin Trains told them last year it would stop stocking the Daily Mail to save space.
“They gave no other reason, but it may be no coincidence that all those titles, like Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson, are pro-Remain,” the spokesperson added.
A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: “We regularly review the products we have on sale for customers in the shop onboard our west coast trains and after listening to feedback from our people, we decided in November 2017 that we would no longer stock copies of the Daily Mail.
“When we stocked the Daily Mail onboard, we sold one copy for every four trains.”