Thursday 3 June 2021

Poor Printed Publicity Provision ...

... So Do It Yourself!

Since lockdown, the fbbs have kept in touch with attendees at their two Christian meetings (monthly on Sunday, fortnightly on Monday) by delivering (by post or by hand) a four sided A5 leaflet combining a secular quiz, some Biblical questions and a (very!) short "Thought".

Also included in the envelope is a "best wishes" card with a personal note from Mrs fbb. Delivery is eagerly waited each month.

Each leaflet has a letter of the alphabet as a "theme" which was the basis of the Sunday's Best meetings. We are now second time around - hence "D". (click on these extracts for an enlargement)

They are created on a very old computer system running very old software (first introduced in 1991!). But it is easy to use and surprisingly flexible.
The leaflets are printed on a cheap ink jet printer (cheap printer, expensive inks!) with surprisingly good results.
They are on tinted paper which reduces the chance of colours bleeding through from the reverse page. About 50 copies go out each month, mostly to folk who do not attend church; some to supporters and "prayer partners".

Why is fbb telling you this?

Because creating a full colour leaflet (DIY) is not difficult. Printing a full colour leaflet (DIY) is not difficult.

Here follows a lesson on print technology. (YAWN!)

Gone are the days when a little man assembled bits of metal type and printed from them. Gone are the days when your newspaper was printed on a huge machine using "hot type".
Older readers will remember the industrial aggro caused when the Press wanted to introduce Web Offset printing.

A youthful and higgerant fbb though it was a system invented by Mr Webb. The "web" is, in fact, the roll of paper. "Offset" means the printing "plate" rolls its image onto an intermediate roller (that's the "offset" bit) which rolls the image onto the paper.

For long runs, "offset" is the cheapest in terms of actual printing costs, but you need a separate machine to make the "plates" - so, overall, prices are remarkably similar. Gone are the days when colour printing was horrendously expensive compared with monochrome.

The latest technology is "digital" printing. In very simple terms, this is the up-sized high-tech version of what fbb does to print his leaflets. The design is created on a computer and sent to the printing machine and out comes a full colour leaflet!

A digital printer is just a big, sophisticated, colour copier.
If your leaflet design is posh and outsourced from plush offices ...
... in London W12 ...
... all you have to do do is poke the computer file into the machine, press go and leaflets issue forth. You might want to add a paper folding machine if your print numbers are large, but young Gavin could fold small numbers of leaflets in a hour or so.

The point is that, in the overall cost base of a large bus group, DIY is not expensive.

So why doesn't First set up a print department in, say, Bristol, to handle in-house leaflet production for Wales, Cornwall, Bristol and Wessex?
We have not been told why First Kernow leaflets are still not available, but the man from No 15 is known to have sweat blood to get his design job done "on time" - or as "on time" as the folk at Camborne would allow.

But somebody, somewhere has used, not expensive print technology, but a good dose of common sense.

Correspondent David, who lives  Minehead way, reports that, at the weekend, folk were grasping "partial" leaflets for the Exmoor Explorer ...
... in full and glorious colour ...
So well done that man (or woman) who had the sense to do a bit of photocopying or even colour printing!

Back in the days of fbb's youth, Sheffield City Council ran a large Printing department ...
... now a block of posh new offices.
Back in the days of metal type-setting, the folk there were more than capable of printing and assembling Sheffield Transport's timetable books.
One of fbb's modest contributions to the Public Transport Industry was to produce, in the mid 1990s, the first full-colour 96 page timetable book for Southern Vectis (and possibly in the whole of the UK). The covers, cartoons by Rupert Besley, had been in colour for some time. Below is a sample of fbb's timetable pages - each service with a route diagram!
The really scary part was getting the "imposition" right. This is the technical term for arranging the 96 pages in printed blocks of 16 such that they would appear in the right order and the right way up when collated and trimmed.

In the case of the Vectis book, the "imposed" pages then went off to a processing company to created the files which then went on to a printer for, you guessed it, printing.

Nowadays those intermediate processes are much easier - with clever software to do the job for you. fbb was then at the cutting edge of new technology!

He is still using the same basic software but with a few modest upgrades over the years.

So if you are having trouble with getting your leaflets printed ...

Do It Yourself

More money for London!
Of course HMG is underwriting ALL bus services at the moment. The deal with Transport for London has a bit more too it because the "grey suits" at the Treasury are not happy with the way Mayor Khan is running the shop.

So there are further conditions with this latest tranche of bail-out money.
Readers should remember that Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, wants to reduce fares to the London level, increase frequencies and run the buses all by himself, getting rid of those nasty commercial companies who make huge nasty profits!

He says very little about how it is going to be financed but using London as an example is perhaps NOT the best way to convince his supporters!

 X52 - Look At Its Lovely Livery
The X52 is one of the Jurassic Coast group of routes which, this season, stretches from Axminster to Poole as the map on the side of this open topper shows.
The X52 open top buses run from Bridport to Monkey World.
But the livery does not have the "panache" of the man from W12, so it is either a cheap job or something cobbled together at Weymouth depot.

Single Deck Mystery Resolved
Thanks to correspondent David (as in timetable leaflets post above) the presence of a single deck service 21 bus from Buses of Somerset ...
... deputising from an open topper is explained

One of the two open-toppers on the route was taken out of service on Sunday and sent to Bridgwater for mechanical work. The Sunday operation was consequently a bit of a mess but by Monday the full service was operated albeit one duty used a single deck.

Which begs a tricky question. If First want this route to be a high profile money grabber aimed as the well heeled visitor market, should they be running a service, which needs TWO open toppers to keep to the timetable, WITHOUT a spare?

Slapped wrist for not knowing was all available online!!!!!!

Admonition accepted, David. As all our readers know, fbb spends most of every 24 hours trawling through Facebook pages on the offchance he might read something relevant to one of his blogs!
Of course he does - NOT!!

The planned fares blog MAY appear tomorrow.

 Next Peculiar Price blog : Friday 4th June 


  1. Unfortunately the First Atlantic Coaster didn't even have photocopied simple timetable sheets to hand out with much confusion whilst certain workings have also been closed-top! Only one First Wessex X52 open-top is actually branded so far, one is running just in plain base colours & the third is not ready at all (covered by a Portland Coaster 501 open-top)!

  2. Why would a single decker substitute and not a double decker for better views of Exmoor, anyone know? Thought it was a premium service?

    1. I understand the reason is because of the infamous 1-in-4 Porlock Hill (the steepest A-road in the United Kingdom) with tight hairpin bends on the ascent/descent. The service uses the steep main road, rather than the gentler toll road. The Scania open toppers were acquired especially for the service as they are “beefier” (for want of a technical term) and better hill climbers than other double deckers – likewise the single decker is a Scania and is temporarily allocated due to its hill climbing abilities. I also understand that the service is doing very well – such that a spare vehicle may well be acquired.

  3. Andrew Kleissner3 June 2021 at 10:42

    It strikes me that printed publicity for tourist services definitely needs to be produced, attractively, and then made available as widely as possible in TICs, hotels and other public places. After all it's competing for attention with all sorts of other leaflets. However publicity for "ordinary" bus services is another matter as the market is totally different. The ideal would be to post leaflets through every door in a neighbourhood (possibly with a "free journey" coupon to tempt people on board) but that could be heavy on manpower and printing costs (although pizza companies manage to do it!) The problem here is also that the publicity instantly becomes valueless if the timetable changes: there's less than no point in distributing a leaflet which (say) publicises an hourly service if it's been retimed 10 mibutes earlier!

  4. Again, I would comment (see also greenline727’s excellent response to Monday’s blog on a similar theme) that First South West have taken a very deliberate “soft launch” approach to their seasonal services this year.

    This is because they had genuine concerns about services being overwhelmed following the lifting of holiday travel restrictions whilst on-board social distancing was still in place – e.g. lots of publicity & lots of tourists + lots of passengers, but NOT lots of seats = potential for chaos.

    For the DayTripper services they were also aware of the scheduling complexity of the service and (rightly in my view) wanted to iron-out any issues before going for the full publicity drive.

    Finally, as has been mentioned several times, delays have meant that not all of the open top vehicles are yet in service. Again the decision seems to be to hold back the publicity until everything is honed, in place and running.

    This is nothing to do with printing presses – in house or otherwise – but a business decision (whether it is the right one or not) about when to release the publicity.

    2021 is going to be a long tourist season and I understand that First South West have every intention of ramping up publicity and marketing significantly over the next few weeks. Many of these are new and commercially experimental services, and the company is taking a cautious approach. The damage done through limited publicity at the start is much less than if they’d gone all guns blazing and been subject to lots of negative reviews.

    PS the excellent First Kernow “Cornwall Local Bus Guide” timetable

    1. The PS was meant to say:
      The excellent First Kernow “Cornwall Local Bus Guide” timetable booklet is available in printed form, just not yet the dedicated tourist leaflets.

  5. Just shows how out of touch FBB is, as apparently the Jurassic livery was designed by Ray Stenning - I assume an apology will be duly issued by FBB for his usual poor judgement.

  6. Surely a soft launch is not advertising a premium open-top product such as the Lizard L1 to start from a certain date & then still operate nothing but closed-tops into the third week after the start date?

    1. Yes, something seems to have gone amiss with the Lizard �� open top, given at least one vehicle was vinyled up a while back.

      But... are they really advertising the service - the only place I've seen it mentioned (other than on private Twitter feeds and enthusiasts blogs) as an open top service is the Adventures by Bus website, but the leaflet there just says summer 2021 for the service... Indeed FBBs blog is precisely about the lack of advertising.

      Damned if they do...damned if they don't.

  7. Ray Stenning or not, just one out of three vehicles required for the X52 actually carrying the branding at launch is poor - or was that another First soft launch? Also the advertised 8.15 am X52 bus from Weymouth has failed to run & appears to be a timetable error!