Here, I take on the mantle of Bournemouth resident Barry Doe by reviewing several different approaches to printed timetable publicity in one corner of England—Norfolk—as seen from a visitor’s perspective.
First Eastern Counties
Available are three A5 and one third-of-A4 timetable booklets for various areas plus a dedicated fifth for the X1 Peterborough-Lowestofts. Norwich itself has two (Norwich & County, Norwich City). Each feels typically First and the fronts are heavy on pink. But, hurrah for booklets rather than leaflets.
Pretty girl, pink pooch and pallid partition wall showing sings of dampThere is absolutely nothing amiss about First’s clear offerings except perhaps that they are a little unexciting. You get the impression they are functional rather than forceful, coy rather than cheeky and certainty not exuberant. The general text, though offering good practice, relies on astringent & stale text such as “We are constantly looking at ways to improve…” and the Bus Appeals Body and Bus Users UK contacts.
Whereas all are laid out similarly and have schematic maps, only King’s Lynn’s has an index of places served, arguably the one network that doesn’t need it. The two Norwich booklets helpfully give other operators’ timetables where these fill gaps.
Visitor’s Perception: can’t argue. No frills but no failures either.
Now, here’s another kettle of fish. Boo to leaflets but hurrah for the individuality that Norfolk Green’s Best Impressions-like agency Big Black Cat brings. If a 50-vehicle operator can get to grips with modern revenue enhancing marketing, why not other, larger operators?
In addition to the days of the week, service numbers and key destinations, each leaflet cover details any connections and any changes since last time. They even state an approximate frequency though I have to disagree with the X29 when it says “up to every hour” when there are departures from Fakenham at 0630, 0700, 0735, 0905, 1005, 1105, 1305, 1610 and 1710. There’s sadly no reference to the other operator on Sunday X29.
Where space permits, there’s a schematic map. There are also people-rich Stenning-esk adverts dotted about featuring Duo or group travel (discounts for two adults or more travelling together) and Act your Age (the brilliant no quibble, no pass, 20 per cent off for 16-19s).
There’s also no stiffness about getting in touch or how to complain. Just “If you’d like to know more about us, if we’ve made your day or if there’s something we could do better, talk to us!”. Simple, effective and forward thinking. *Very* Norfolk Green, in fact.
The only leaflet that I felt was poor was for the King’s Lynn town services which, in mixing traditional matrices with a summary, took a little unravelling. To be fair, this isn’t on a visitor’s usual agenda.
Visitor’s Perception: all I need to get going in a clear, understandable and exciting way. But have I leaflets for the whole network?
An interesting offering from this small north Norfolk operator providing a string of regular, semi-regular and market day services on Norfolk council’s behalf. Hurrah for the single timetable, which is unusually large, at A4, and has 28 pages, a clear geographically correct map if lacking in a little detail. There’s no index of places served.
In spite of its A4 size, the font size varies between timetables and some matrices are laid out landscape, others portrait. Most, though strangely not all journeys before 1000 omit the leading ‘0’ (i.e. 659 instead of 0659). Services don’t always follow in chronological order. The half-hourly 43/4 from Sheringham is oddly advertised in reverse order as 44/43 but without the main header route details. This means where in the main body of the timetable it says “Castle Meadow Stop C” [capital ‘S’ for Stop] and “St Stephens stop E” [small ‘s’ for stop], you have to know this means Norwich. Why not say so?
Too many inconsistencies mar an otherwise potentially excellent product. And there’s no mention on Sander’s X29 of the aforesaid weekday operator.
Visitor’s Perception: the buses ran well but the timetable was a little ailing. Not a bad effort.
Small operator publicity has come on leaps in the 20 years of deregulation. Back to leaflets with Anglian, I’m afraid, but they are as colourful and attractive as the Anglian Buses themselves and feature the strong combination of yellow and blue. Each service number is colour coded as are the timetable matrices within. Alternate rows are shaded to ease reading. Font sizes on some (e.g. A47) are woefully inadequate. There are normally two routes per leaflet, grouped logically, and back to back so that there appears to be two leaflet fronts. This meant I generally picked up twice as many pieces of paper as I needed.
Visitor’s Perception: colourful if difficult to distinguish services from the fronts (or backs!) and without the fervour of Norfolk Green.
Sadly, I could find no printed publicity for Konectbus at all. Odd, given that like Norfolk Green, this is an award winner and an operator employing the Big Black Cat. Ah well.
Visitor’s Perception: who are they, where do they go and do I need to catch one?