Aside from its in-house fleet, National Express largely buys in from external suppliers. That we all know. The public doesn’t see who operates their Nat Ex services unless they look very closely. They probably couldn’t care less, anyway. Why should they, when the unified brand’s a strong one. Indeed, it’s the only recognised bus & coach superbrand at the moment (it wasn’t always so), at no. 266 out of 500, sandwiched between food retailer Wall’s and bed manufacturer Silent Night. Not even Stagecoach gets in there, not any more. And, once, Arriva & First were, too.
Something to crow about when you may be recruiting. Yourbus grew out of the collapse of Veolia
Late last month, Nat Ex announced the winners of its 2011 coach awards. It has about 60 contractors. The overall winner 2011 was Bennett’s Coaches, Gloucester and the best fleet went to Stott’s of Huddersfield. For the successful few, slapping a time-honoured boastful vinyl on their coaches is probably not realistic because:
- Nat Ex, for obvious reasons, is very controlling over its brand presentation
- It’s rather inconsequential when no one knows the identity of the coach other than it’s on a Nat Ex run. There’s no real benefit to an indifferent public who sees the one brand and will be meaningless 200 miles from home in any case, at the other end of the route.
The most interesting of the nine operator categories was “Most Improved Operator 2011”. Now, a “most improved” athlete or sportsman is something else. That recognises exceptional talent, stamina and perseverance. But for transport awards, “most improved” manages to maintain a curious air about it. For the winner, what does this achievement really say about previous operations? Does it subtly imply past under-performance? Does it subliminally infer something about the operator’s recent history that’s best left unsaid? When it comes to transport operators, do we expect them to be consistently high? Especially with the gimlet eye of National Express’ Digbeth HQ that continually evaluates its suppliers. So, no matter the actual quality of the “most improved”, it still rather comes with a mixed message.
It was 40 years ago that the National Bus Company (sensibly, IMO) rebranded its disparate collection of express marques into a single, unified NATIONAL product. Six years later, this was to become National Express. Not only did territorial bus operators then provide vehicles for service, the backbone was a small number of regional NBC coaching subsidiaries that eventually formed. Early Nat Ex survived coaching deregulation and Nat Ex is well established as the county’s premier express brand, hence its Superbrand status. Since the early 1990s, the components of the network have gradually changed such that the successors to the NBC territorial operators have shrunk considerably. Three quarters of suppliers are smaller, independent businesses. It’s interesting that no large groups feature in the awards, save for that of most improving operator.
And if you’re interested in the winner of the Nat Ex “Most Improved Operator 2011”, you’ll need to wander over to the Dorset Bus Blog, where you’ll see the answer at the end of today’s post there.