Nomination for Best Marketing Plan
Nomination: Nottingham to Skegness Marketing Strategy
In November 2007 the CRP took delivery of a comprehensive Marketing Strategy for the Poacher Line.
The Strategy was commissioned by the CRP through an open tendering process, with the tender awarded to the O’Neill Transport Consultancy working with the Independent Rail Consultancy Group (IRCG).
The brief specified a number of inputs to the strategy and these included stakeholder consultation: a review of the branding for the line; an overview of the operational constraints and opportunities and a market research programme in the form of a customer survey.
The objective was to devise a practical, integrated and realistic marketing strategy based on solid and verifiable data. In doing so the Strategy has also set out a clear route to achieving the strategic objectives, so that the potential of the line can be fully realised. The Strategy has been designed as a working document for the partnership and should be updated and improved in the light of emerging data and the changing market environment. It is an integrated strategy with each element supporting the others and contributing to the overall success.
The Strategy includes an outline action plan as a recommended programme of activities for the delivery of the strategy.
IRCG’s findings suggest that the Nottingham to Skegness line is underperforming compared with others of this type. The Strategy has identified a number of reasons for this and is designed to address the main impediments to sustained improvement. If the strategy is based on the present and future needs of the market it follows that the line can play a much more prominent role in the life of the communities it serves.
The current situation offers a unique improvement opportunity which the CRP believes should be grasped by the core stakeholders to ensure that the line is able to realise its maximum potential. There are two significant changes that will occur within the lifetime of this study, both of which present substantial scope for delivering sustained enhancements.
The first of these is the appointment of a new franchisee, East Midlands Trains. The marketing strategy has been designed to take advantage of the enthusiasm, new ideas and commitment to continuous improvement that the successor operator will bring. The second event that will clearly affect the line is the engineering work planned by Network Rail for the years 2009/10. Substantial improvements will accrue from this programme anyway but the strategy identifies opportunities for optimising the benefits through collaboration with the train operator and other interested parties throughout the planning and implementation phases of the programme.
The Strategy also recommends that the CRP act as the commercial focus for the line, working closely with the train operator’s route manager. The CRP should be responsible for, inter alia, researching the market, liaising with customers, delivering the marketing communications plan, feeding back progress to the operator and steering group, investigating ticketless travel, devising a pricing and ticketing strategy, chairing the local networking group, devising tactical plans to best implement the strategy and station adoption
Stakeholders were consulted as two groups i.e. ‘Core’ and ‘Wider Reference”. The former were interviewed face to face, where possible, and otherwise by telephone or email. The latter group were invited to a workshop and those unable to attend were sent a questionnaire by email. The main improvement suggestions from the consultation were:
- Infrastructure improvements to facilitate a more reliable train service;
- A more customer driven timetable;
- More effective deployment of rolling stock to better reflect the main passenger flows;
- Refurbishment and/or redevelopment of the main stations; and
- Developing new or poorly served markets.
The Strategy carried out a high-level operational review to identify the main barriers and opportunities for improving the efficiency of the train service. IRCG’s recommendations were that station dwell times, optimised calling patterns at the most lightly used stations, level crossing closures and upgrading the infrastructure should all play a part in facilitating the marketing strategy. Specifically, the Strategy suggest that the core stakeholders should work together to take advantage of the planned engineering work scheduled for 2009/10. This provides an opportunity to deliver substantial improvements efficiently; namely the elimination of the many temporary speed restrictions and the replacement of poorly conditioned rail.
The Strategy examined the fitness for purpose of the stations and rolling stock as part of a product review. The stations, staffed and unstaffed, fall below the standards a modern transport provider should find acceptable. The trains during the high summer peak were overcrowded and dirty, whilst at other times there was plenty of space and the condition adequate.
A market survey was carried out with more than 1,000 customers at various locations during August 2007 to identify current usage and areas for future development. This enabled the identification of the main customer groups, their travel habits and priorities. Overcrowding, the conditions of the trains and the poor state of the stations were the least favourable aspects of the journey; whilst journey time, information provision and reliability scored relatively highly. A number of tools were used to assess the market and its potential including ticket sales, census, and benchmarking data. The Strategy identified six stations along the line that generated an average of fewer than five passenger journeys per day. Also, the yield per passenger kilometre is below the average for this type of service. Growth of the local economy and population is above the national average, as is car ownership. These data, however, mask, some marked variances, particularly between urban and rural areas. The overall analysis suggests that there is considerable potential for growth in rail travel along the corridor.
The Strategy has identified three main market segments for which the line is best placed to serve. These are: ‘Destination Skegness,’ ‘Local Travel,’ and ‘Network Connections.’ All are accessible, profitable and have substantial growth potential. This proposition forms the core of the strategy.
The marketing strategy comprises three components: ‘Do minimum,’ ‘Recommended strategy,’ and, ‘Maximum aspiration.’ The first of these provides a base from which the strategy can be compared and the last a vision of what might be achieved at some unspecified period in the future. The recommendations comprise the following elements:
- Eliminate all temporary speed restrictions and raise the prevailing line speed to 75 miles per hour.
- Carry out a feasibility study into closure of some level crossings.
- Review the service to the six least patronised stations
- Refurbish or redevelop Skegness, Boston and Sleaford stations.
- All other stations to be locally adopted.
- Review the timetable to provide the best possible service for the market, including through running from Derby and other stations; better connections at Sleaford, Grantham and Nottingham; more seating at peak times and reduced end to end journey time.
- Improve the condition, seating capacity and standard of the rolling stock.
- Provide a local management focus for the line.
- Investigate an appropriate brand proposition.
- Devise a marketing communications plan to inform and attract the targeted market segments.
- Integrate with other transport providers to offer a wider range of destinations.
- Review fares and ticketing policies to improve the yield per passenger kilometre.
- Plough some of the cost savings back into the line so that the investment will lead to further improvements.
It is anticipated that the recommended strategy could be launched in 2010 and that the intervening years provide adequate time for robust planning, detailed investigations and pilot schemes which will help to ensure its successful implementation.