(james benedict brown) on the road

The bus stop

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 3 January, 2008

Although my credit card administrators may not believe it, I do still occasionally travel by coach. Feeling that my holidays were getting a bit too manic (ahem) in Castle Acre I escaped south and west on New Year’s Eve, heading first to London and then to Oxford to see in the new year.

The National Express bus stop in Swaffham isn’t exactly a bus-spotter’s dream, with just four ‘national’ buses a day. Well, actually only two. One goes to Birmingham and one goes to London, and they both come back in the opposite direction later in the day.

As I stood there waiting for the bus I wondered who it was exactly who came to Swaffham every year to change the bus timetable in this little cabinet. Surely not the (surly) bus drivers? They’re usually reluctant to even load your luggage, so I doubt they would contribute to the upkeep of their… well, bus stops.

Speaking of which, the sticker with the National Express logo is peeling off the sign at the top of the bus stop. In modern day marketing terms, there’s a real danger that it might come off altogether and reveal the old logo that’s still underneath. And that would simply not do. Will the label last until a new one is applied? Luckily for those of you concerned with coherent marketing strategies (count me out) you can see a National Express bus or a National Express East Coast (formerly GNER) train near you for a taste of another profit destroying rebranding exercise that’s coming to the entire company in the next few months. The red and blue dots with the meandering arrow (strangely appropriate for such a slow and meandering means of getting from one place to another) is being replaced with a series of inclined grey lines. It means something, but I don’t know what. Perhaps that all the bus operators who run National Express franchises are going to have to budget for another compulsory re-brand?

As my bus swung in, with a discordant clatter that was possibly reminiscent of the horse drawn stagecoach that might once have connected Swaffham with London, I pulled out my home-printed ticket and hummed a few chords of a suitable tune. Nothing like a coach journey to raise the spirits.

When you’re sad and feeling blue,
With nothing better to do,
Don’t just sit there feeling stressed,
Take a trip on the National Express.

from National Express by The Divine Comedy.


One Response

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  1. me said, on 5 January, 2008 at 14:06

    Your National Express ‘coach stop’ in Swaffham is, as you’ll notice, a mere bus stop flag with a NX sticker applied. The Company has a ‘Bus Stops Executive’ who is responsible for the maintenance of each stop – be it a shelter in Sheffield or a flag in Swaffham; however to ensure each stop is in good repair, for one person, would be rather arduous with over 1500 individual stops throughout the UK and so the local franchised operators are asked to report damage to the stops and are then, in most cases, sent new flags +/or stickers to maintain them. Taking Swaffham as a specific example, Service 308 (Great Yarmouth-Birmingham) is operated by Ambassador Travel on behalf of NX and so too is Service 496 (Cromer-London); they would be responsible for at least reporting damaged stops to NX, who would normally send them the required implements to rectify it/them unless a large number of stops needed renewing in which case it may warrant the visitation of the Bus Stops Executive.

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