Tuesday, 20 December 2016

is route branding all it's cracked up to be?

As many of you are aware, we contribute the regular Identity Parade feature in Buses magazine - bringing old bus brands back to life for 21st-century service.

The work has generated some correspondence in this month's edition, and alongside the feature, the editor has published a number of letters where the concept of route branding, in general, is discussed. There is also a piece by Peter Rowland where he looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of such a marketing approach.

In his writing, Peter touches on a number of operators, and critiques their slightly differing approaches - Brighton & Hove ('a superb example'), First ('overall effect is a strangely mixed message'), Transdev Blazefield ('seems to be getting it right') and Reading Buses ('perhaps has come up with the ultimate in route branding').

You probably don't need them but here's an example from each one of those operators.

So who's got it right and who's got it wrong? For me, there is no absolute answer. A company like First who has a national presence will face totally different challenges to someone like Reading Buses, who provide services in a confined geographically area within a single network.

However, what they do have in common, is the need for customers to be the ultimate beneficiaries. Which leads to a number of questions on the whole concept of route branding; How much do customers really benefit? Is the service superior on branded routes? Who, ultimately, pays the additional marketing and production costs? Would patronage drop drastically if those Opcos above went back to a 'one livery, one market' approach?

As the readers and writers of Buses magazine point out, there are a number of discussion points and lots of different opinions! You can subscribe to Buses here.

Friday, 16 December 2016

selling bus travel Scandinavian style

It's rare you see an advert for bus travel that puts a smile on your face, but this old effort from Oslo Public Transport is that exception.

The ad, which stars English actor Nick Malinowski, follows a path that lots of people will be familiar with on a night out at this time of year.

Until the end...

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

all passengers really want is the basics delivered consistently

As I drove into work this morning, the 5 live phone-in was about the three-day driver strike on Southern Railway.

Apparently, not one single service is running on their network today, and they have told customers not to bother travelling or to seek alternative transport. Naturally, the radio programme was keen to hear about the experiences from as many train users as possible, and unsurprisingly, they were keen to talk.

The first caller was quick to praise Chiltern Railways - "I've never had a problem with them. Their trains are consistently on time, and clean". A few calls down the line, a gentleman praising Virgin Trains - "In ten years, they have generally been on time'. The negative calls also followed a similar theme "They are always late or cancelled", "Considering they are always late the cost is shocking", "I can never get a seat on my way to work".

In a nutshell, criticism was to do with punctuality and reliability, and praise to do with... punctuality and reliability. Both the fundamentals of public transport around the world. Whilst free wi-fi (when it works) and usb chargers are great little extras, they lack substance if the train you are travelling on is an hour late, and results in a missed job interview or client meeting.

A lesson that applies to both rail and bus travel is to get the basics consistently right or as my Mum used to say to me, "don't run before you can walk".

Monday, 12 December 2016

are we surprised America is doing trains better than us?

The people of south-east Florida are getting a brand new train line over the next couple of years, and if the branding is anything to go by, they are in for transport treat.

The company behind the venture is called Brightline. According to their website, the company is set to offer 'a new express train service that is reinvigorating a century old railway to connect the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with a Phase Two expansion to Orlando. Our modern, soaring stations are located near places you want to be, and connect you to commuter trains, buses and rideshare options that will get you where want to go. We’re proud to be changing the future of Florida’s transportation for the better'.

Find out here how the Americans are doing things (route branded trains anyone?) this country can only dream of.