Posted 18th March 2010 | 3 Comments

‘Minimal’ East Coast rebranding cost taxpayers more than £300,000

November 2009: the traces of two failed franchises can be seen

November 2009: the traces of two failed franchises can be seen

THE rebranding of East Coast last November cost £634,842, of which taxpayers had to find £339,190, according to official figures. The deletion of the title ‘National Express’ from trains, stations, publicity and software was carried out over a couple of weeks. But the additional cost of developing the new East Coast brand itself has not been identified, because it was carried out by DfT staff rather than an external agency.

The revelation has come in a response to an application under the Freedom of Information Act. The expenditure, described as ‘minimalistic’, included £250,000 to rebrand rolling stock and £137,590 to deal with software and related IT matters.

One company, ATOS Origin, charged £68,000 to amend the online ticketing system, replacing ‘National Express East Coast’ with ‘East Coast’. The IT total of £137,590 does not include a further £30,000 spent on redesigning the company’s website.

Rebranding of stations, office and depots cost £98,783, while replacing antimacassars in First Class accounted for £2,756.

An outgoing franchise holder is contractually obliged to pay for ‘debranding’, and National Express contributed £295,652.60 towards the total of £634,842.17.

The Deoartment for Transport said that the exercise had been kept to a minimum ‘in recognition of the high potential cost involved and in appreciation of onward transfer to a successor operator within two years. An example of this minimalistic approach is where appropriate the "National Express" lettering has been removed from “National Express East Coast” wording leaving just “East Coast”’.

The DfT added: ‘The design and the majority of the creative work supporting the East Coast brand has been developed in house from existing resources from within the East Coast mobilisation team removing the need for excessive creative agency costs.’

The Station Champions, Chris Green and Sir Peter Hall, recommended in their report to the DfT at the end of last year that station signage should no longer be the responsibility of franchisees but should be provided to a common standard, based on the design already used at Network Rail managed stations. The DfT has accepted all the Champions’ recommendations in principle.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Anoop, London

    Most passengers couldn't care less what company name is written on the train as long as it is fast, reliable, clean, comfortable and affordable.

  • Matt, Huddersfield

    This happens everytime a franchise changes hands its nothing unique to East Coast. Just another reason why, if we can't renationalise, we should follow the Scotish example and have a continuous identity no matter who operates the franchise.

  • Jessika, Swansea


    Since the entire, _required_, exercise was simply the removal of the "National Express" from "National Express East Coast" (and "NX" from "NXEC"), and of the stand alone instances of "National Express" (and NX), how on earth did this cost that much?

    Sure, any debrand would have _some_ attached cost, but that much!

    The website debranding only needed to be using a large eraser in Photoshop on maybe a dozen graphic files along with using 'find-delete' ["National Express"] on the text, with a proofreading before going live.

    As for the physical assets, surely a bulk load of bog standard white and pale grey spraypaint (with appropriate rectangle hole stencils), blank adhesive vinyl film, and adhesive backed cotton would have sufficed perfectly until the next time they need replacing/repainting due to WEAR AND TEAR. opposed to the 'rebranding conveyor belt' (at our expense, one way or another) we witness as profit blinkered franchise owners constantly reinventing their brands in attempts to disassociated themselves from poor performance and/or appalling value for money.

    Although, personal I feel the humiliation of having your precious brand image enmass crossed out with black spraypaint and marker pen would have taught NX and their privateer peers a valuable lesson. --- If you manage to go near-bankrupt while charging many times the actual value for a service that is of years out-of-date, overloaded, unreliable, and counter to the needs of the users, you _don't_ _deserve_ the priviledges of dignity and respect when you finally drown in your self-serving greed.

    Yes, this comment is full of invective and intense dislike, but then I just want PUBLIC transport to get us around quickly, in comfort, and affordably (like how about AT COST if the idea of taxation is so horrific). - Instead for most of the last decade and more we've had the equivalents of Gap, Nike, and FCUK, where we pay a premium in return for what is not much more than a narcissistic opera of branding.