Heidi Lee, ESG Rail Communications Manager, ESG Rail says: "My friends in the railway press are often lamenting the fact that the rail industry does not have a collective PR voice. We have been lacking, since privatisation, joined up, centralised promotion."
In my view, many railway organisations, including operators, manufacturers, suppliers and consultants understand the importance and power of a good PR programme and they generally promote their bit of the sector well. However, we need somebody who can speak effectively on behalf of the combined industry, defending and promoting the sector’s many achievements.
I was therefore delighted to learn that the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is launching a major “Britain Runs on Rail” advertising programme here in the UK. This will be the first industry wide campaign of its kind since the 1980s, and in my opinion is very much needed and could not come at a better time.
The 216,000 of us working in the UK rail industry fully understand the sector’s many benefits. Rail is one of safest ways to travel. It is environmentally friendly and helps to reduce the CO2 levels in our atmosphere by millions of tonnes. Since privatisation, passenger numbers have doubled from 800 million in British Rail’s day, to £1.6 billion travelling on 25,000 trains per day now. We have the safest and fastest growing railway in Europe, with record levels of investment being made. The rail industry and its supply chain are key contributors to the UK economy, with up to £9.3 billion in gross value added per year. There are so many benefits and successes to promote across the industry, however our national press and media continue to batter the sector, preferring to run stories on strikes, disruptions and service cancellations. Something really needs to be done redress the balance and counter the misinformation that often fills the tabloids.
We have a very strong and well respected railway trade press in this country, whose coverage is generally balanced and supportive and looks at the many successes and innovations in the industry, as well as the issues facing the sector. How can we get the Nationals to present such a balanced view? Is a co-ordinated effort to redress the balance pointless because of the old adage that ‘bad news sells’? Possibly, but I think we still have to try. Some of us remember the ‘Age of the train’ campaign of the late 70s/early 80s, possibly for the wrong reasons these days, however this campaign was very effective and I have high hopes that the “Britain Runs on Rail” programme will be as well.
The aim of the RDG advertising is to instil pride in the 216,000 of us working in the sector and to build support among the general public for the continued investment in rail. I intend to fully support this campaign and I hope that my fellow railway workers will get behind it too.
ESG plays a significant role in the development of the UK's rolling stock, offering innovative and value-led consultancy services in three categories - Strategic, Technical and Integration. Under DB Systemtechnik ownership, one of Europe's largest railway consultancies, ESG possess the expertise, capability and resource to enable industry growth and change. For more information visit our website (www.esg-rail.com).