Sunday, 31 May 2015

Rebranding the Railways

Today was going to be an interesting day in terms of railway history.  Three of the Lea Valley Lines out of Liverpool Street were being transferred to TfL, and the line from Shenfield has become a totally new entity, called TfL Rail.  This is a holding brand until Crossrail is finished in a couple of years, as they don't want to use that name yet, apparently.

While changing a TOC doesn't usually make much difference, in this case it will, as fares will be changed to be in line with those charged on the Underground, which in many cases means they will be cheaper.  Moreover, one can use Freedom Passes on TfL lines 24/7, and not have to wait until after 09:30 as you do with other TOCs, so if the Victoria Line should happen to fall over on a Thursday morning we'll still be able to get up to Walthamstow.  And the boys won't have to pay fares until they are 11, rather The Boy having to pay from July, when he turns 5.  So that is all good stuff.

So the Swan Whisperer and I decided to go to Liverpool Street and see if there was any sign of the change in TOC.  We just missed a 35, but caught a 355 into Brixton and then a 133 up to Liverpool Street. 

Platforms 1-4 are now dedicated to the Overground, although the Stansted Express seems to use them as well, and those parts of the Lea Valley Lines that have remained with Abellio Greater Anglia.  But they are branded as Overground and Abellio, and lots of Overground staff were around in case people had queries.  At the moment, obviously, the trains are exactly as they were yesterday, but they will probably have new logos, etc, applied.  New trains aren't set to come into service until 2017 or thereabouts.

Then TfL Rail have taken over platforms 14-16.  We walked the length of the station to have a look.  Once again, the platforms had already been rebranded, and there were plenty of staff, one of whom asked if we needed help.  We said we didn't, but chatted to him for a bit, and he was very helpful and knowledgeable.  He said the trains would be rebranded, but the new trains wouldn't be along until Crossrail came in, again probably in 2017. 

We debated going somewhere on one of the trains, but there wasn't much point, really, as the trains themselves hadn't changed.  But I was impressed that not only the signage was in place, with new notice boards pointing to the relevant platforms and so on, but also the recorded announcements had been changed, and the station itself looked as if these TOCs had been running trains forever. 

We were less impressed, though, with the maps.  There was an up-to-date map in the Underground station, incorporating the new lines, but the pocket maps provided had not yet been updated, and, moreover, were not available on the main line platforms.  The Swan Whisperer picked up a leaflet to read on the bus about the modernisation of the Underground, only to find that it dated from 2013.  You can't win them all, I suppose!  So we came away and caught a 35 bus home.  But definitely 9/10 to TfL for the work they've done.  On Thursday I'll see how and whether they've changed the branding at Walthamstow Central.

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