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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK

Business: The Company File

Union boss hops on board Virgin

Lew Adams - to work for the company that named a train after him

Lew Adams - the outgoing leader of train drivers' union Aslef - has landed a job with Virgin Trains.

Mr Adams, 58, failed to be re-elected as general secretary in May this year.

The move to Virgin Trains - owned by tycoon Richard Branson - will anger his opponents, but Mr Adams said he is unworried.

Lew Adams: This is just a further contribution to the railway industry
His new job training drivers is within the only industry he knows, and will help maintain safety standards, he said.

Only a month ago Virgin named one of their trains after Mr Adams - The Black Prince. It was a name given to him by a national newspaper during a train strike.

John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, said he was "entirely comfortable" with Mr Adams jumping ship to a privatised rail company.

BBC Industry Correspondent Stephen Evans said: "He now has to work with Richard Branson and it is hard to imagine two more different men.

"The only thing they have in common is railways and a reputation for straight dealing."

[ image: Bryan Barrett:
Bryan Barrett: "interests of the railways at heart'"
Virgin's managing director Bryan Barrett said Mr Adams would not be a poacher-turned-gamekeeper. "Everyone has the best interests of the railways at heart.

"That is what Lew has always done and will continue to do for this industry."

Mr Adams started working on the railways on his 15th birthday, rising after driving steam trains to lead Aslef, one of the strongest unions in the UK.

He led the union through a period of huge change in the industry, when the national rail network passed into private ownership.

"Throughout the whole of the privatisation process nobody at train driver grade was made compulsorily redundant," said Mr Adams.

"At the end of the day there was one - it was me."

The BBC's Stephen Evans: Lew Adams, former union leader "fits into Virgin's plan"
He made a reputation as a left winger, but lost re-election as general secretary, losing to a man further to the left.

Dave Rix, a union official from Leeds and a member of Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party, won the leadership ballot by more than 4,558 votes to 3,357.

[ image: Richard Branson: We will have the best line in the world]
Richard Branson: We will have the best line in the world
Mr Adams will hand over the position of general secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen in January 1999, when Mr Rix will commence a four-year term of office.

Virgin Trains has been under fire recently because of delays to the trains it runs on the West Coast mainline.

Cabinet ministers were among passengers whose arrival in Blackpool for the Labour Party conference in September was delayed by problems on the route.

BBC Industry Correspondent Stephen Evans: The move will anger Mr Adams's opponents
Transport Secretary John Prescott said the line had become worse since Virgin took it over.

But Mr Branson rejected the accusation, saying he intended the line to be the best in Europe, if not the world, in three-and-a-half years' time, at the end of the current franchise.

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