With planning and imagination, you can help your line to attract more passengers.
The key is to understand your target audiences. How do they currently travel? And why? Use your own insight, and don’t be afraid to ask them too. You can then create campaigns that will win their attention and persuade them to take the train. There are many ways to do this – be creative and have fun.
Try to measure the impact of your efforts, for example by monitoring how many people visit your website. By doing this you can see what works and learn for the future.
The Beach Train
Pays de la Loire (France)
Région Pays de la Loire has transformed the previously struggling La Roche Bressuire line into a thriving resource that boosts tourism and the economy. A big part of their success was a stylish marketing campaign.
This included a catchy name – calling the coast-bound weekend service “The Beach Train” – and attractive retro-themed branding. The campaign also used unconventional methods to spread the word, including advertising on baguette packaging. The results saw thousands of extra journeys made and The Beach Train extended for a longer season in subsequent years. Read more.
Take your teddy on the train
Tamar Valley (UK)
Promotions needn’t be complicated or expensive. To encourage families to use the Tamar Valley Line during the half-term holidays, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership agreed a promotion with First Great Western that allowed children accompanied by an adult to travel free if they brought a teddy bear with them on their journey.
The key to this fun and simple campaign was that once agreed with the rail operator it required no paperwork or time-consuming bureaucracy – staff simply allowed children to travel without a ticket. Promoted through station posters and the local press, the promotion was a big success – leading to some extremely busy trains, packed with families.
Penhoët storytelling event
Special events are a great way to attract new users. Région Pays de la Loire helped residents to (re)discover Penhoët station through a storytelling event. 20 people joined a local theatre troupe for a trip entitled “The Imaginary Journey”. They began by exploring iconic spots in the local neighbourhood. They then took the train to Nantes, receiving a tour of the station that helped to familiarise the families with the logistics of travelling by train.
On the journey back, the actors told stories about dramatic railways around the world, from the Flying Scotsman to the Orient Express. None of the children had ever taken a regional train before, and yet described the experience as “comfortable”, “quick” and “convenient” – showing that the event had sparked a desire to explore the regional rail network more in future. Read more.
Ways to promote your line
Hear from people who’ve done it
In this video, hear from Mike Parker-Bray, the project’s Communication Officer, about how each campaign was shaped according to the needs and circumstances of the local area. One of the key lessons learned within the project is that marketing doesn’t have to be a big budget exercise. By using websites, social media and imagination, you can work in partnership to develop a strong message and connect with users and potential users of your line, no matter what your starting point.
Involving young people
The event, which was the follow-up to the first Citizens’ Rail masterclass held in Aachen and Heerlen in 2013, shows the power of engaging students – and that not all ideas need to cost a lot of money.
Links to useful materials around the web:
- How to write a press release (webpage)
Handy advice from The Guardian newspaper.
- Beginner’s guide to Twitter (webpage)
Read this short introduction to Twitter, written by the BBC.
- Creating a Facebook page for your group (webpage)
Watch this video about how to create a Facebook page.
- Create a free WordPress website in minutes (webpage)
Visit the WordPress website to find out how to create a website for your group, and to get started.
If you have your own case studies, resources or ideas to contribute to this (or any other) section of the toolkit, please add a comment to the foot of this article.
Alternatively email email@example.com or call +44 1752 584777 to speak to our lead partner, the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership.
More from the toolkit
Improve existing stations
– Early consultation
– Designing with students
– Art and gardening projects
– Community-focused buildings
New uses for station buildings
Creating new stations
More trains, better stations
Attracting more users
Involving citizens and stakeholders
People with disabilities