A UK newspaper has reported that the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is leading the charge to turn his Virgin business empire into a more sustainable organization, and his UK rail franchises could be the first to benefit.

The famous businessman Sir Richard Branson is in talks with the UK government to allow the Virgin Trains rail service to run its diesel trains partly off bioethanol – a fuel mix that is cleaner then pure diesel because it is made up of 15% biomass material.

At present all 78 of Virgin’s ‘Voyager’ fleet run on pure diesel, but the Mail on Sunday newspaper claims that Mr Branson sees the move as a means to kick-start biofuel uptake, although he also reportedly wants the government to cut the tax on biofuel to offer an added incentive to consumers and industry.

One stumbling block to Mr Branson’s rail plan could be the fact that the franchise for the routes operated by the Voyager trains is up for renewal, with little certainty that Virgin will retain it. Likewise, since the Virgin fleet is owned not by the group itself but by a set of leasing companies, there are likely to be further bureaucratic and cost hurdles ahead. The government – as the ultimate paymaster of the notionally privatized rail system – will seemingly have the final say on the biofuel plan.