STAFF at Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) gave bosses both barrels after they were asked in an employee survey to “Tell it like it is”.

Results from the survey, carried out in January this year, and seen by The Northern Echo showed that far fewer staff were happy to work for the firm than a year ago.

Criticisms from staff include poor staffing levels, “patronising waffle” about values, “paying lip service” to health and wellbeing and a description of the Virgin brand as “vacuous and patronising”.

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In a letter to staff revealing the results, VTEC managing director David Horne said: “I’m not going to pretend you told us that everything is 100 per cent rosy.

“The results tell us that, although there’s a lot we’re doing right, there’s an awful lot to do to make this a better place to work.”

Mr Horne’s letter described how the company’s overall ‘engagement index’ was down from 73 to 58 per cent and attributed the biggest drop to its customer experience and driver teams.

Just 52 per cent of employees said they were satisfied with their daily working environment and 45 per cent said that the company was interested in their wellbeing.

Staff were also asked whether they felt it was okay to speak up and express an opinion, with only 44 per cent believing it was.

Just over half of the firm’s staff responded to the Tell It Like It Is survey.

Virgin East Coast – which promises to “Take Everyone to Amazing” – last year carried more than a million passengers, an eight per cent increase, while overall passenger satisfaction ratings recently hit 91 per cent.

But it has previously been in dispute with both ASLEF and RMT rail unions over on-board staffing changes, part of what it describes as a “customer-centric revolution”.

A spokeswoman said: “The happiness of our people is really important to us, which is why we regularly speak to them to gain an insight into how they’re feeling at work.

“Following the results of our latest employee engagement survey we’re holding sessions with our people up and down our route so we can listen to them and understand the full story behind these figures.

“We’ll look at what we can do to tackle any concerns and ensure that our people are proud and happy to work for Virgin Trains.”