Decent London route branding (at last)

Friday 20th September 2019

Well done UNO Bus, operator of TfL bus route 383 between Woodside Park and Barnet, for today’s community led launch of the first decent route branding on a London bus route for a few decades.

The 383 may be a backwater north London bus route which takes a circuitous route east of the Great North Road between the Spires shopping centre near Barnet Church at its northern terminus and Woodside Park Underground station in the south, but it’s now the most professionally promoted route in the network.

Running only every half an hour the 383’s route meanderings take in New Barnet, Oakleigh Park and Friern Barnet with a 36 minute end to end journey time meaning three buses are needed to run the service – smart four year old Enviro 200s.

The 383 is the only TfL contracted bus route operated by Hatfield based UNO Bus – they’ve held the contract since July 2015 – so it’s a very welcome development to see MD Jim Thorpe and the team take this initiative to give the route a much higher profile.

It’s not easy to work out where TfL bus routes go. The inexcusable absence of a network bus map either in printed form or online (other than the independently produced map by Mike Harris) is an absolute scandal so anything that provides a clue where bus routes actually go is to be applauded.

IMG_4233.jpgAll the more so as recent ‘trials’ of route branding introduced by TfL during the last couple of years in the Barkingside and Hayes and Hillingdon areas are excruciatingly embarrassing due to their amateurish application. Well designed they’re not.

IMG_4237.jpgThis new 383 branding introduced by UNO has all the hallmarks of the excellent work produced by Ray Stenning and his Best Impressions design agency. It’s to their consistently high standard.

A lovely stylised route map on the lower back panel is an excellent idea although sadly looks as though it might suffer the fate of being usurped by an advert for a third party company in the frame. Let’s hope not, it would be such a shame to see a promotional bus route map covered up by an advert for a car dealer!

Inside the buses on the 383 are panels to create interest in the local area as well as another geographic route map.

Sullivan Buses – another small well presented bus company based in Hertfordshire who run a growing number of TfL contracts in north London – also use these panels to give background historical information about each route to generate interest.

I hope the larger bus companies who dominate London’s contracted bus market are taking note of these positive initiatives and hopefully TfL will approve more schemes of this kind and give up those appalling attempts at route branding in Barkingside and Hayes.

It’s also encouraging to hear this 383 brand launch has been introduced with customer focused training involving all the regular UNO drivers on the route.

Imagine if proper branding, as just launched on the 383, was applied to all the high profile routes through central London. What a positive difference that would make. It might even help turn around the downturn in passenger journeys being experienced across central London and encourage new passengers who might stand a chance of understanding where bus routes go.

Roger French

8 thoughts on “Decent London route branding (at last)

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  1. The route details on the cantrail and the maps on the back are a welcome development, especially since the destination displays give no clue as to the route taken. In Orpington, I can stand on opposite sides of the road to catch a bus to Chislehurst, (routes 61 and R7), but they take completely different routes. I need to know which way the bus goes – we’re not all going to the terminus!

    P.S. Whilst route branding is a good idea, it all goes pair-shaped if they wander off on to other routes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it’s easy for a company operating one route to do branding, much harder if you’ve got several operating out of the same garage. Here in Cardiff our local buses are the 57/58 and X59. The buses branded for X59 tend to stay on it (but not always) as do the buses branded 57/58. However most buses in the fleet are not branded at all, which rather dilutes the idea. And we quite frequently get buses which are well-branded for route 27, which is bonkers.

    At least it’s better than Ipswich, which a few years ago adopted a livery in which each bus said, “Taking you to the SHOPS” or “the UNIVERSITY” or whatever … the idea was to show the diversity of the places served but of course people tended to think that “this bus goes there”.

    The London, Brighton & South Coast and London, Tilbury & Southend Railways ran into the same problem by naming all their locomotives after places on their networks. The important thing (at least on the LTS) was to look at the destination board on the front, not the name painted on the side!


  3. Seems do not have initiative to do branding by TfL operator, as they do not takr farr box revenue. Appreciated what UNO done, maybe it is aimed at securing more tFl contract as well be having goodwill to do a mile extra

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is good to see London moving towards proper route branding. I grew up in early 2010s Gateshead, which was the peak of route branding in the heart of Go North East country, so I know the value of a properly good brand. Whilst some weren’t as good, this was in the days before groups like Best Impressions had really professionalised bus design. When I first went to London I was stunned at how boring and uniform buses were.

    Annoyingly operators in London will never be able to do what Oxford Bus Company have done, where each of the core routes has a different colour so you can always work out which bus is which at a glance, but this is a step in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was really impressed by what Go Northeast had done. Regrettably, there were less branding in Go Northeast now, even more had been dropped while just some of them being revamped now.


  5. Have never been a particular Fan of route branding, but provided the vehicles NEVER stray, it may have some value as with the 383. And perhaps in Central London, with many casual Tourist passengers just hopping on a bus to view the sights. But even in route-bound prescriptive London, buses rarely stay on the same route, with school and night-bus commitments at many garages or dedicated batches of vehicles intended for a group of routes. Thus it becomes a nightmare for Garage staff. For some forty years, apart from the war years, single-deck Green Line Coaches carried elaborate route description boards on each side of the vehicle, but I doubt if it ever attracted a single extra “casual” Traveller who knew nothing of the route beforehand..


  6. How are via points on vehicle sides not confusing but on front blinds they are because the bus may have passed some of the locations shown? Total hypocrisy!


  7. I don’t think route branding is worthwhile in London. So many routes so much interchangeability of buses in the garage. I want neat, red buses with clear destination signs and some intermediate information and most importantly good stop information and MAPS !

    Liked by 1 person

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