back to article Train rebrand costs us dear

When National Express lost the east coast rail franchise someone had to pay to rebrand the trains and website. The total process cost £634,842 and taxpayers contributed £339,190 of this, £295,652 was picked up by National Express. The cost of repainting rolling stock was £250,000, while changing logos on the website and …


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  1. Martin Milan


    Why even bother - East Coast Trains Ltd. are just a temporary operator until the end of the original franchise, which isn't all that far away actually...

    If National Express don't like the idea of a national fleet of trains advertising their failure, tough!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It is only a temporary operator *if* they can find anybody to take up the franchise. Both the last two incumbents gave up on it because they couldn't pay for the franchise and make a profit. The odds of them finding another operator under similar terms are unlikely. If they reduce or abolish the franchise cost for the next operator then National Express (and possibly GNER) will cry foul. The last thing the SRA want is previous operators sueing for their money back.

      In other countries public transport is subsidised by the government. In the UK the government is subsidised by public transport. And people wonder why public transport is so expensive in the UK.

    2. rpjs

      Contractual requirement

      Even if a franchisee forfeits their franchise, they have the right to have their trademarks removed within a short period of time (just a few weeks I think). The same thing happened when Connex lost the Southeastern franchise a few years back. All mention of Connex was removed within a few weeks from all the stations and trains. And a good thing too as they were terrible, although the current mob (GoVia) aren't much better. Bring back the nationalised South Eastern Trains!

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        Turning Public Service Into... cow.

        20 years ago there had been a move by (an anonymous US) state to close a local state park. I suggested at that time to add an admission charge, which saved the park.

        Flash forward to last week, and again a move to close down parks. I happened to talk to one of the congressmen from the state and i asked how the parks could be broke. He replied, "The parks make money, we [the State] just stole it all."

        Not only had they turned the parks into a cash cow, they wanted to kill it and make hamburger.

        I don't think the US government is doing much better, AMTRAK is a quasi government operator and its virtually impossible to get a train. The little tourist lines do better.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Turning Public Service Into...

          Most people don't realize that the government has been using the US Postal Service as an ATM machine for several years... USPS is the only government agency required to PRE-FUND (pay in advance) employee retirement health benefits, to the tune of $5 BILLION per year... that's one of the reasons USPS is losing money now... Blame our Congress critters for the last several increases in the price of stamps... because the postal service has to put money on deposit for the (future) health benefits of employees who won't be eligible to retire for 30 years, or may never retire because the quit before they can retire.

          Hand grenade, because that's what Congress has handed USPS.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Surely CTRL+H for "search **and replace**"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Microshaft Strike Again

      Until MS decided to use CTRL+H for search and replace it always used to be backspace.

      1. Semihere

        Command-f surely?

        What's all this 'Ctrl' nonsense? Everybody knows that the primary keyboard shortcut activator is the Command key ;p

  3. KTM Gordo


    I think you've got a bit carried away - the rolling stock hasn't been repainted by East Coast, and if it had, £250,000 is very little for a lot of paint (the article you link to doesn't mention repainting either).

    As someone who travels daily through Kings Cross, where EC trains arrive in London, I can confirm that the re-branding has been minimal and mostly consists of purple EC logos stuck over the National Express (which was stuck over the GNER) lettering.

    When it comes to the web site, I'd much prefer it was done properly with correct security certificates etc. than done on the cheap with mis-matched security details and other bugs that could mean my ticket to Leeds is accompanied by a reserved seat to Darlington and I've been charged for a ticket to Inverness.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      National express actually behaved fairly sensible and just used foil with its stickers on top of GNER. Something I would not say about First group which meticulously spent more than a year repainting the outside of all trains while doing absolutely nothing to refurbish, repair or even clean (in the case of the liverpool street ones) and improve the service.

      IMO it should be a condition of all rail franchises - you are not allowed to rebrand the carriages until you have achieved your accuracy and quality improvement targets (Yeah, I know that is a great disturbance in the whalesong, as if millions of marketing consultants cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah yes

        When First Group took over the Thameslink line from the Thameslink company (who incidentally repainted several entire trains knowing full well they were about to lose the franchise and they'd have to be repainted again), apart from putting stickers over the old logo (at first), they did sod all internally _except_ put up notices exclaiming the wonderful job they'd done to make the trains safer. Whatever was actually justifiably trumpeted, it was absolutely not done by First Group!

        1. bigphil9009

          @Ah Yes: Damn Straight!

          I'm glad someone else noticed that! It really annoys me: "At First Capital Connect, our trains are designed to be safer blah blah blah" - as if they say down with a fresh piece of paper and a nice sharp pencil. All they have managed to do is take an already unreliable service and make it worse...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        First Group

        Ah they of the pukeulent fuscia, purple and navy blue livery that disfigures so much of our transport system.



        National Express began but did not finish a complete rebrand of all of the old GNER stock, but they certainly focused on entirely destroying the old GNER brand, which found it's routes in the original rail companies that built the lines the east coast runs on (GNR & GER), and replacing it with their bland corporate National Express image.

        As a monthly user of the North East Coast line for the last decade, the service distinctly degraded under National Express from the previous GNER service and has not subsequently improved under the new government owed line. I agree that it should be a condition to return the stock stripped of all branding.

        It seems to me that too much of the focus of National Express was on it's image and branding or rather style over subtance. I hope that's not the same for the new company.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Erratum? - No its fraud

      "....charged for a ticket to Inverness."

      nobody pays to go to Inverness - paying to leave is credible

      1. Equitas

        Beware the Harpies of Aberdeen!

        So Fredd writes "Nobody pays to go to Inverness"

        Rubbish! I paid to go to Inverness in January. The East Coast train, however, turned back at Perth. The situation was brilliantly handled by East Coast staff on the train and at Edinburgh. Accommodation, food, transport to and from hotel provided and a reserved 1st class carriage provided the next morning on a train to Aberdeen for onward transit to Inverness.

        At Aberdeen, however, it all came (metaphorically) off the rails. The platform in Aberdeen, boasted three harpies, one who saw it as her rôle to prevent any of the displaced passengers from boarding the connecting train for Inverness, a second (an East Coast employee) who saw it as her rôle to prevent the displaced passengers obtaining the East Coast customer service number for Edinburgh and a third who saw it as her rôle to prevent any of the displaced passengers from regaining entry to the platform to attempt to board a subsequent service to Inverness. Mercifully, a young (male) clerk in the Booking Office was of a much more amenable disposition and the displaced persons did eventually arrive in Inverness on a later train.

        It's Aberdeen you need to steer clear of, not Inverness -- at least until some sends in a pest control officer to remove those uniformed harpies from Aberdeen!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Of Course

    When companies had their own IT depts, this would have been fairly easy and cheap to do.

    I had to do this for a major international company, including multiple domains and over 53,000 email address rebrands and it was just classed as another task we had do in our normal course of work.

    Outsourcing companies love these things because they can charge the company anything they want to, as they have the business by the balls.

    But of course as we all know Outsourcing saves you money!!!!!

    1. zooooooom


      Why don't the contracts stipulate that the train companies leave all assets as they found them otherwise they lose their damage deposit - just follow the rental housing model - everything will be plain magnolia in a jiffy :-)

      The tax payer shouldn't foot the bill for any branding!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Or the "Theatre" model

        All visiting shows have a stipulation in their contract that they must return the theatre back to the state in which they found it when they close or move venues.

        This includes all the shows in the West End - even the ones that have run for decades in the same venue like The Mousetrap and Les Miserables.

        So theatre productions are always very careful not to change anything too expensive to put back, unless they really have to - and the cost of putting it back included in the cost of changing it in the first place.

  5. Kwac

    @ Erratum

    As I don't use the railways, I'd much rather you paid for any changes than it being extracted from my taxes.

    HMG never contribute to a new crash hat for me.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Was this the one that bunged a Minister

    to avoid the £500m penalty for walking away from it as they couldn't hack it?#

    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this basically.

    1) Create new logo icon files

    2) Insert into test website environment.

    3)Cut & past on all page to replace name X by name Y

    4)Pass to new franchisee for update notes (unlikely. Same old s$%t, same old bucket)

    5)Swap live test with live site at 3am in morning

    6)Archive old site (clearly labeled as old franchisee)

    7)Take tomorrow off in lieu.

    I'm not a webmaster, content administrator etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not really..

      The price sounds a bit high, but it's more likely to be along the lines of

      1) create new icons, including resizing them and editing into appropriate dimensions, colour depth etc

      2) Handle easy cases of new images in new location, then harder ones of 'image embedded inside something else'

      3) Manually go through each page, with a search to help speed task. Automatic cut and paste is a recipe for disaster and does not always preserve grammar.

      4) Fix code which accidentally had a hidden dependency on company name being the previous one

      5) Document everything, in case customer comes back two weeks later and complains about what has been done, the cost, time etc.

      6) Test internally

      7) Implement on test site, for customer to test thoroughly.

      8) Swap live with test in early hours

      9) Fix bugs after it's found the customer didn't state their requirements correctly, or test the test site, even though they signed it off.

      10) bill large amount, say 700 quid+ per day.

      It might be a five minute job, but I bet they haven't arranged the system so it is.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      You forgot:

      8) Jack up price charged to eye-watering levels by applying usurious T&M rates to the effort charged.

      This is how the outsource model makes its money, bleeding its customers white for any service not specifically and contractually agreed up front.

  7. Christoph

    Even BR did it

    When Notwork SouthEast was introduced our 8 carriage fairly modern trains went off to be repainted, and for several months we had 4 carriage slam door trains which were horrendously crowded in the rush hour.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to live in the region

      and was pleasantly surprised when I first went back with South West Trains at the helm, specifically with their new trains. But not the next time when I spent an entire journey sitting on my heels in the vestibule, just like in the old days.

  8. Daniel Hill

    Proper Franchising

    To save all this hassle every time a franchise changes, maybe it would be best to treat the rail companies like any other franchised operation (e.g. McDonalds).

    Keep a single, standard identity across the entire rail network, with a smalll 'operated by' logo somewhere on the train to show which bunch of bus bandits are currently trying to make a profit from a public service.

    They've already started doing this in Scotland.

    1. NightFox


      I was just going to say the same - bring back the old BR two-way arrow logo, as it's still officially licensed and used in connection with the railways, just have the company name under it in a standard size that can easily be stickered over with the new operators name. And whilst we;re at it, lets have the good old BR yellow and plasticine-blue livery back!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...surely National Express should have to pay for all costs arising from their terminating the franchise early. Nobody made them do it.

    ...nobody uses that website anyway, doesn't everybody use the aggregators like thetrainline and such?

    ...National Express used old Intercity 125 stock not the 225 and ex Eurotunnel kit used by GNER, so how could National Express have rebranded ex-GNER stock? (that's aimed at earlier posters).

    And the final but... company should be allowed to pull out of the franchise early without massive financial penalties.

    1. Andy Scott

      They Did

      National Express did sue the 225's that GNER used as that's what runs to Scotland, however they never re-painted them. Instead just put stickers over the GNER saying National Express East Cost. One big thing I noticed they didn't do is use the electronic destination screens that are on the doors of the 225's instead its a bit of paper telling you the info. The governments East Coast company’s the same. what the point of the screens if they're not going to use them.

    2. MonkeyBot

      The trainline

      "...doesn't everybody use the aggregators like thetrainline and such?"

      No, because they charge me a booking fee.

    3. ChrisC Silver badge

      But but...

      "...National Express used old Intercity 125 stock not the 225 and ex Eurotunnel kit used by GNER, so how could National Express have rebranded ex-GNER stock?"

      Nope, NXEC used both the 125 and 225 stock formerly operated by GNER, and both types of stock were most definitely rebranded in the NXEC livery. You're right that they didn't use the Eurostar stock, but since GNER had already returned that long before they lost the franchise it's not really a surprise we never saw it in NXEC colours...

  10. Paul_Murphy

    A better way.

    Would be to have all logos and company name references linked to seperate files/text variable names, so that whenever a franchise gets lost it would be a much more simple case of changing the lookup sources.

    Would only work on the website of course, email, stationary, carriages etc. would still need to be worked on manually.


  11. CD001


    £30k for the website...

    Generate a new CSR (assuming the domain's changed) - 2 minutes work.

    Make the SSL Cert alterations with the signing authority - fill in a form and make a phone call.

    Create a couple of new HTML templates and roll them out across the website and CMS - 30 man-hours tops if you're doing it properly, design, code, checking W3C/IE compatibility and running some WAI conformance QA checks.

    That's assuming that the site is using something like an MVC so that the GUI is nicely separate from the controllers of course.

  12. Mike Shepherd

    What *will* they think of next !

    "...modifying the branding and National Express specific content on all pages"

    *All* pages?

    I'd have used a subroutine or a master page, but what do I know...

  13. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Atos can run all the trains!

    "...and no disruption or inconvenience for passengers."

    Perhaps Atos can also ensure that there is no disruption or invenience for passengers on the other lines? It would be money well spent :)

  14. PirateSlayer
    Thumb Down

    I'm more concerned...

    ...about the 500,000,000 Byers apparently cost us by persuading Adonis to let National Express out of their contract...I think quarter of a million pounds odd sort of pales into insignificance next to that.

  15. Is it me?


    Discovered that First Crapital Connect rebrand Trainline anyway, I assume others do as well, and charged a booking fee, so I buy my ticket at the station. Sometimes I even use one of those nice multifunction ticketing devices called Human Beings V1.0 who can actually tell you things about which ticket is the best to buy.

    I actually use FCC's web site for train information and buying my Car Parking season ticket for which NCP do not charge a premium over the on site machines.

  16. Semihere
    IT Angle


    ...this website is using CSS? that's what it's FOR - separating style and content.

  17. Badbob

    It's all GNER anyway....

    The current ICEC website is essentially the very same one put in place by GNER a couple of months before they went belly up. Just the logos have been changed. Most of the staff uniforms are GNER (i.e. the band on the guards hat was changed from red to silver).

    I work on the upper end of the West Coast Main Line, and we have East Coast services running to Glasgow past my office window every 2 hours. It's always nice to see the logos of 2 failed operators covered over by the new operation, as the NXEC and GNER logos are still quite clearly visible (under some paint) on the old blue 225's.

    Also, in regards to what a poster said above in Scotland.... First ScotRail (who had almost repainted the entire fleet into their colours at their own expense) were instructed to repaint every train (even those in the Glasgow area, that haven't carried any BR or Busco's colours since the 70's) into the new government specified patriotic ScotRail "Scotland's Railway" colours, complete with pisspoor attempt at a Saltire. Guess who is paying for this? Taxpayers.

    P.S. East Coast are still repainting 125's into NXEC colours, just without the NX logos. The last 125 carrying the GNER livery was outshopped in a fresh coat of NXEC silver only 2 weeks ago, months after NX left the franchise.

  18. Richard Porter


    "Surely CTRL+H for "search **and replace**""

    It's F4 on my computer. CTRL+H is a backspace.

    No doubt D(a)fT Rail forgot to specify a ticketing system that would automatically propagate branding changes throughout the network.

  19. Richard Porter


    "Why don't the contracts stipulate that the train companies leave all assets as they found them ..."

    What we need is a single company - let's call it British Rail - that owns all the stations, collects the fares and specifies all the services and liveries. The rolling stock can be leased and the oeration of services can be contracted out to the operating companies. That way the TOCs would know exactly what services they had to provide and what they would get paid, so no risk. There would be competition at the tendering stage.

    ScotRail has the right idea by designing a single livery style to be applied as trains are repainted. The franchisee can apply small branding stickers. DfT Rail has also stipulated that Southern's new station signs should remain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You're 'avin' a larff aren't cha?!

      BR were a national joke. We need private operators in order for there to be competition, but what we also need is for those operators to be subsidised. Not used as another revenue stream for the treasury. Rail tickets in this country are just another form of indirect taxation. I think everybody is aware that more of every pound you earn in the UK goes on tax than every before. However even the best calculations don't include everything that goes into the treasury. Rail and bus franchise fees are included in your ticket price, so every time you travel on public transport not only are any taxes levied (and that includes things like fuel tax) going to the treasury, but so is your portion of the franchise fee.

  20. Richard Porter


    A"s I don't use the railways, I'd much rather you paid for any changes than it being extracted from my taxes.

    "HMG never contribute to a new crash hat for me."

    As a motorist, I am happy to subsidise the railways so they get as many people as possible off the roads! I am not happy that those subsidies get creamed off to pay shareholders and for bosses' bonuses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Get With The Programme

      The railway operators are not subsidised and haven't been for ages. They actually pay the treasury for the privelege of running the trains. The government want to have their cake and eat it. They say want us all to use public transport for the good of the environment, but they make damn sure we can't afford to use public transport. If they want more journeys made on public transport they should be subsidising it.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    British Rail?

    Nationalize it all and get it to serve da ppl, for a change!

    How can a combination of 15 Fscking companies run a national rail service better than a single one???? This is all the brain-excrement from Maggy, how anybody let that clown into power is above me ... I heard she even got re-elected ... Brits and politics, rofl, I am having a brandy^H^H^H^H^H^HCognac ...

    Mind you, we are now in for it as well, because fscking British EU MP's have convinced the rest to have the same mess across the EU, merci, Danke, dank u ....

    If it is so much better, why is it 5 times more expensive? London-Portsmouth fare takes me from Hamburg to Munich, on that nice German "speed" train, you know ... and from Marseille to Paris for the same amount in about the same time!!!

    Diesel is sooo .... old-fashined, like a steamy ...

  22. Andy Goss

    Name the line, not the company

    Here in Melbourne, after several pointless name changes, Connex having been usurped by some other mob, the state government appears to have done what a previous poster says ScotRail has done and given the commuter network a name, and appointed a company to run it. As rail operators are generally loathed, they are better off being as anonymous as possible anyway.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    ATOS Origin bleed the taxpayer

    I'm at a senior level, and have inherited a government hosting contract with ATOS Origin.

    You would not believe what ATOS are paid for hosting the most basic of services.

    The whole OGC framework is a charter for big companies to rip off Government and the taxpayer.

    Smaller, agile, and more competitive enterprises just don't get a look in.

    My predecessors who signed up with ATOS were either incredibly naive, or corrupt to the core.

    Tragically, I think it was more likely to be part of the endemic Public Sector naivety when it comes to commercial reality.

    Rest assured I'm actively working to exit the current relationship with ATOS asap..and save taxpayers money....hurrah!

  24. pieface


    £30,000 - so That's why the rest of us use CSS stylesheets....

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Notes on UK Trainlines

    UK train operating companies (TOCs) may well pay a franchise fee.

    However the Treasury pays them a *subsidy* per passenger as it is recognized that they could

    *never* make a profit at the capped fares they are allowed to charge.

    Franchisees compete offer the *lowest* passenger fee the Treasury has to pay. AFAIK this is a "Reverse auction."

    However the rolling stock comes from Railway Leasing Companies (RLCs). Few TOCs own their rolling stock (IIRC Virgin is one of the few which does). RLC's are funded by merchant banks and investment arms of UK banks. They paid a very low percentage of the full price of the stock on the argument that "What if *no* one bid for the franchise old boy, we'd be stuck with stock we could not lease. x% is our final offer."

    Leasing charges paid by the TOCs are *not* capped or regulated any other way.

    The track is the responsibility of a public body called the Strategic Rail Authority but the maintenance is done by yet another pseud-public company (whose name I can't be bothered to look up). SRA runs signal boxes etc but repairs/upgrades re-design are done by pseud-public company. SRA charges TOCs for upgrade and repair work. Historically pseud-public company was called Railtrack and was stock exchange quoted. Since it had to make money it saw *no* reason whatsoever to schedule work during the working week. This has now changed.

    Modeling the effects of this structure on train service, ticket costs and likely hood of improvements is left as an excercise to the interested reader. It originated with the last Conservative government (they'd sold off 8every* major national asset anyone *wanted* to buy) and has been (in theory) *slightly* improved under Labor.

    Mine's the one with a copy of the Railway Gazette in the side pocket.

  26. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Think of the time and money saved

    Each time somebody says "East Coast" instead of "National Express East Coast". It adds up till it pays for itself. Imagine if they'd called it Pip, or ! which is that click sound in some African language or other.

  27. James R Grinter

    Re: Website and train branding.

    "...nobody uses that website anyway, doesn't everybody use the aggregators like thetrainline and such?"

    Actually, the NXEC website was a cheaper (and IMHO easier to use) way to buy tickets than thetrainline. They didn't charge an extra fee for using a credit card, either, and I'm glad that EC has maintained that so far.

    "...National Express used old Intercity 125 stock not the 225 and ex Eurotunnel kit used by GNER, so how could National Express have rebranded ex-GNER stock? (that's aimed at earlier posters)."

    I'm no train geek - I merely use the line a bit, and even I know that they were using Electric 225s (as others have pointed out to you) as well as the old 125s. Immediately the GNER/ NXEC switchover they started taking off the GNER "shield" logo, and applying "National Express East Coast" onto the white stripe. But they also began repainting their train sets silver, to match their advertising. (I did notice that they continued to have the "GNER training manual" on the shelf in the buffet car, though.)

    At least they haven't done as the dreadful First Great Western franchise has done, and had their logo put into the fabric and plastic-work of the seating!

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