Rail rage: Virgin refuses to carry double-bass

Rail rage: Virgin refuses to carry double-bass


norman lebrecht

July 24, 2018

Message from Margarida Castro, doublebass with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra:



Prompt sod-off reply from Virgin Trains:


What a dismal service. Richard Branson made his first millions out of music.


  • Robin Smith says:

    I can understand Virgin having rules for storage space in Standard Class (almost anyway, especially at peak use times) but First Class should surely allow sufficient latitude for something like a Double Bass).

    Very poor publicity for Virgin I’d have thought. The Train Manager person needs to be allowed discretion in these matters.

    • Sue says:

      It’s a dreadful airline, altogether. Avoid. Budget class in every way.

      • Scotty says:

        It was the Virgin UK train, not airline. That said, I’ve had good experiences flying Virgin Air.

        • Sue says:

          Oh, even worse if a train. You’ve obviously been lucky with Virgin; I find them too budget for my tastes and their silly hostesses who are referred to as “your beautiful hostesses”. Well, that’s how it was when I last travelled with them some years ago. That Branson just irritates me beyond belief.

  • Ricardo says:

    The way things are looking, it’s only a matter of time before musicians are penalized simply for being musicians. We will all be living in Joe’s Garage.

    • V.Lind says:

      The problem is not with where you live (at least not yet). It’s how to get anywhere else from there.

      But good to know if airlines finally come round stories about travel problems will not dry up on SD.

  • Andreas B. says:

    meanwhile, in Germany Deutsche Bahn DB is running an ad campaign staring the Munich Philharmonic on ICE trains carrying harps and double basses, etc.

    (complete with pictures of happy travelling musicians: https://www.deutschebahn.com/pr-muenchen-de/aktuell/presseinformationen/10_20_Kooperation_Fernverkehr_Philharmoniker-1328556 )

    however, when a double bassist inquired about their actual policy on carrying instruments:


  • angry_cellist says:

    So that’s no for a cellist too then, given those dimensions. A violist would be a close call too.

  • Pauline says:

    And people wonder why there are so many more cars on the roads!

  • Will says:

    Am I the only one not surprised that you can’t take a double bass on a long distance train without some sort of prior arrangement? Where on earth would it go? Presumably in a seat and that would not unreasonably have to be paid for. Surely it would have been sensible to have called Virgin in advance?

    • Qwerty1234 says:

      No. There is plenty of space for double basses without the need to register with Virgin.

    • Mgc says:

      Please see my below comment – travel by train, including virgin, with a double bass (and often a stool and suitcase) has been standard for decades with no issues. I’ve always taken my bass into the carriage itself, where it fits into a number of places, or left it in the guards van if requested to do so my the train manager.

    • Mgc says:

      Please see my below comment – travel by train, including virgin, with double bass has been standard for decades with no issues. I’ve always

  • Tamino says:

    More whining by the generation of mainstream narcissism. It can‘t be taken for granted, that a double bass travels free. Simple as that. Show some responsibility. Act like an adult.

    • Symphony musician says:

      What a misanthropic, inhuman comment, and what assumptions you make. If your attitude represents the alternative to what you see as “the generation of mainstream narcissism” then I’d take them over you any day of the week.

      • Will says:

        Seems reasonable to me – travelling with a hugely outsize piece of luggage – make arrangements in advance. Maybe visit the luggage page on their website?

        “For larger suitcase or pet carriers, there may be a charge. We also ask you to not place luggage or animals on seats that could be used by other passengers. The best thing to do if you’re in any doubt is to give us a call on: 03331 031 031 and check in advance.”

        • Dan says:

          I think you are quite ignorant and have no experience of actually travelling with a double bass as you probably are not a double bassist, or even a musician at all. I would think a little longer before writing such an aggressive comment.

          There is always enough space on trains to travel with the bass, be it in the guards car, the bicycle car, or the disabled car (not by storing the bass in the space designated for disabled passengers, it has more space in general in the disabled car).

          Even if you book and give the train company notice well in advance it still does not guarantee you a place. I’ve had guards actually asking me for a bribe in order for me to travel. It’s the companies fault for having such a vague policy that doesn’t address the issue of musical instruments. Double bassists rely on trains, its not a choice.

          • Alistair James Kewish says:

            For those commentators who are not aware, each DVT ( driving van trailer)
            is made up of the driver’s can then a pretty , fairly unknown storage space immediately adjacent. This is not the guard’s can, where long distance trains still operate with a guard.

            The storage space to which I refer is probably vast enough to carry twelve double basses if kept apart and tethered. I hope this information may be of some help in a somewhat negative atmosphere. The door is opened by a standard carriage key.

    • Mgc says:

      How terribly rude you are. Clearly you do not know that for at least the last ten years (which is as far as my personal experience goes back so I can’t comment prior to this time) it has been completely fine to take double basses on all virgin trains without any advance booking. I have nearly always been permitted to take mine into the carriage with me, and occasionally been asked to put my bass in the guards van, neither of which was a problem. This is why suddenly being told she was unable to board was a shock to the woman in question here, because many professional UK double bassists have used virgin for decades without problems.

  • C BELL says:

    an alternative might have been to use a llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

    an alternative might have been to use a l

    an alternative might have been to use a LONDON airport,which Virgin does not serve.


    london airport

  • S D says:

    Musicians ARE penalized for being musicians, at least in the USA. Few can make a good living at it.
    As for shipping, I took my harp with me as I moved to New York on the Broadway Limited. I wisely put the trunk through baggage and took the harp into coach with me and wedged it in a corner. It jiggled all the way to New York (probably not a good thing for it at all). But the next day after arrival, when I returned to Penn Station to pick up my trunk from locked baggage, it had been broken into and almost everything stolen from it. After many months of complaints, I finally got a paltry settlement from Amtrak, though it was clearly an employee who was responsible for the theft. Nothing was returned.