Virgin Trains are using old uniforms to help homeless people – and their dogs

Six-year-old Virgin Train gear is being turned into blankets, scarves and dog coats by prisoners at HMP Northumberland

Virgin Trains’ initiative upcycling old uniforms to create blankets and scarves for homeless people is a commendable one – and now they’re looking after canine companions too.

Every year, the rail operator enlists the help of prisoners from HMP Northumberland to turn old coats, shell jackets, shirts, trousers and suits worn by staff into garments to keep homeless people warm over the winter months.

It’s a smart way of making the most of some of uniforms that are more than six years old and also offers the prisoners the chance to develop skills in the prison’s onsite textile factory to help their rehabilitation.

Virgin Train dogs uniform
Virgin Train's upcycled dog coats are more than a little reminiscent of our iconic red tabards (Credit: Virgin Trains)

But, as so many of our Big Issue vendors tell us, dogs are such valuable companions so it’s heartening to see the latest addition to the scheme – dog coats. All the items of clothing which could not be made into blankets have been turned into unbranded coats for four-legged friends.

And, let’s be honest, the dog coats have more than a passing resemblance to a certain iconic red tabard.


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Items will either be distributed by Virgin Staff at London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow Central or will go to local charities to give to the homeless.

“We set ourselves the challenge to be creative and socially responsible with disposing of these old uniforms. It’s also a smart and socially responsible way to handle our waste,” said Jo Buckley, community manager at Virgin Trains, who have also recently started working with Big Issue-backed Change Please.

“It’s so rewarding to see the repurposed uniform benefitting those who really need a little warmth and comfort during the winter months and we’re so proud to play a small part in helping the homeless alongside our work with our partners Change Please Coffee.”

Images: Virgin Trains