Network SouthEast Publicity

Network and Gold Card

The evolution and development of Network Card and Gold Card
- filling empty seats and rewarding loyal commuters!

Kids Out - Quids In

In 1982 British Rail‘s Director of Passenger Marketing Services devised a successful marketing promotion in the south east called ‘Kids Out Quids In‘ to coincide with the school summer holidays. The promotion had one simple objective, to fill some of the vast spare seating capacity on trains outside the rush hours. The proposition was simple - ‘Buy one adult AwayDay ticket (subsequently re-branded Cheap Day Returns) and up to four others travel for just £1 each, provided that one is a child‘. A campaign using TV, radio, press ads, station posters and leaflets was run throughout London and the South East region, featuring Jimmy Saville and the BR corporate advertising banner ‘This is the age of the train‘. It was primarily targeted at housewives with children.

The promotion generated considerable sales and was repeated in the summers of 1983 through until 1986, with new ads and creative work for each year. Following a change of advertising agencies the 1984/85 campaigns used the ‘We‘re getting there‘ end line, subsequently revised to Network SouthEast for 1986.
Kids Out Quids In
1986 leaflet

Double Royal Posters

Kids Out Quids In Kids Out Quids In Kids Out Quids In Kids Out Quids In
March - June 1985
Original Map
July - Sep 1985
Improved Map
Early 1986 1986
£5 discount voucher

The creation of Network SouthEast and the tough revenue targets set for it by the Department of Transport meant that the Sector‘s marketing team needed to significantly increase income from off peak travel. ‘Kids Out Quids In‘ had become established as being a summer time offer. A new, all year marketing initiative was needed. Between March and July 1986, various concepts were tested through market research and focus groups. The second most popular was the idea of a new railcard which would give discounts on the complete range of daily tickets and allow up to four other adults or children to travel for just £1 each. The most popular concept was for the overall reduction of all off-peak ticket prices but this was not practical. So, agreement was reached with the BRB and the other passenger Sectors to add a new railcard to the existing range (Family Railcard, Young Persons Railcard, Senior Citizens Railcard, etc) but to restrict its use Network SouthEast services and a few InterCity services stopping within NSE, e.g. Paddington to Reading. And so Network Card was born.

Network Card

To allow sufficient time to develop the marketing and advertising campaigns, the decision was made to re-run the ‘Kids Out Quids In‘ promotion for the summer of 1986, right through until Sunday 28th September. This had two advantages -
  • The established and fairly loyal ‘Kids Out Quids In‘ market could be targeted with incentives to switch to Network Card after September.
  • There was already going to be considerable marketing activity connected with the launch of Network SouthEast on 10th June 1986, including the launch of one new ticketing product, namely One Day Capitalcard. It didn‘t make sense to confuse the market with another new product as well.
Network Card was launched on Monday 29th September 1986. It was priced at £10 for adults and £5 for the over 60s and valid for twelve months. The card holder could also select a second holder who could use the card on their own. The second holder was entitled to exactly the same discounts and entitlements.

The Network Card holder (or nominated second holder) was entitled to 34% discounts on Ordinary Singles, Returns, One Day Capitalcards (minimum fare £2) and Network Savers. As an introductory offer there was a 50% discount on Cheap Day Returns, this reverted to 34% from January 1987. Discounts were also available on Red Funnel ferry services to the Isle of Wight. Up to three other adults travelling with the card holder (or second holder) were entitled to the same discounts and children (5 to 15) travelled for just £1 each. The reduced fares were available after 10:00 Mondays to Fridays, anytime at weekends and over the bank holidays. The total party size could be up to eight people, up to four adults and four children. No photocards were needed. Passengers could upgrade to 1st Class travel on the weekends and at bank holidays for just £1 each. There were of course a few caveats. For instance, discounted tickets could not be used on (InterCity) Gatwick Express or Rail/Air Link Coach services.

A special offer was made to passengers travelling on the ‘Kids Out Quids In‘ promotion during August and September 1986. They were given £5 discount vouchers off the price of a Network Card. They only had to be make two trips and their Network Card was free! A total of 40,000 Network Cards were issued in exchange for these vouchers before 29th September.

A major advertising campaign ran from Sunday 28th September 1986, lead by the ‘Love Train‘ TV commercial and supported by national and local press advertising, a major poster blitz at stations, leaflets and flyers. A novel new media was to advertise Network Cards on milk bottles delivered to doorsteps by Unigate and Coop Dairies throughout the NSE area.

Network Card formed the foundation of the Network SouthEast marketing drive for 1987 under the umbrella of the ‘Summer of Fun‘ campaign. Activity started with a Network Card Day on Saturday 11th April. This allowed Network Card holders to travel anywhere for £1, children went free. The promotion generated some 15,000 new card sales. The main aim of the advertising and publicity for 1987 was to show committed and not so committed leisure travellers the big savings possible for families and friends with Network Card. The advertising also stressed the card‘s flexibility and suitability for groups of different sizes. An imaginative point of sale display was displayed in ticket offices which showed local examples of the savings that could be made instantly with Network Card. This had a useful effect and encouraged many impulse purchases of Network Card. Customers were also given a Leisure Pack which included the new Network SouthEast Leisure Map and a Network Leisure Savings Book, both designed to give idea for future trips by train. A competition was also run for Network Card holders with prizes of trips to Venice by V.S.O.E. returning by Concorde. Runners up won Golden Rail short breaks. The database of Network Card holders was set up and used to mail customers with renewal reminders.

Extensive market research was undertaken in 1987. This indicated that 90% of holders had never held another railcard, 83% felt that it was good value, with 85% likely to renew. 81% of journeys were being made on Cheap Day Returns and One Day Capitalcards. In the month prior to interview card holders made an average of 1.65 journeys (1.1 journeys by nominated ‘second‘ holders), with an average fare of £9.50. 27% of all journeys were conversions from car trips. 6% were entirely new, ‘generated‘ journeys (i.e. would not have been made had there not been the reduced fares that Network card offered).

Similar marketing, advertising and publicity campaigns to the 1987 activity were run in 1988 and 1989.

In 1988 Network Cards were made available to holders of Young Person Railcards at half price (£5). The communication was adjusted slightly to place more emphasis on the 34% discount available on Network Savers (later re-named Network Away Breaks) for ‘stay-away‘ trips and also to the £1 First Class facility at weekends. The 10:00 starting time restriction on Mondays to Fridays was relaxed back to 09:00 during July and August. Special offers with holiday operators and visitor attractions were mailed to Network Card holders to give more ideas of places to go using discounted rail fares.

The advertising and publicity for 1988 and 1989 was similar to the 1987 campaign but without the TV commercial. Further Network Card Days were held on Saturday 16th April 1988 and 22nd April 1989 giving card holders the chance to go anywhere within the vast NSE area for just £1 (increased to £3 for 1989). The over 60s were targeted with a special £3 Network Day on Saturday 10th September 1989 and a major poster campaign featuring DJ Tony Blackburn under the theme ‘You don‘t need to be young or retiring to get a third off with a Network Card‘.

Network SouthEast‘s promotion of Network Card carried on until March 1994. In a memo to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, September 2001 the South Hampshire Rail Users‘ Group wrote -

‘Chris Green brought affordable off-peak travel to the populous South East through the Network Card‘
Network Card Neywork Day Network Card
1986 June 1986 August 1986
Network Day Network Card Network Day
September 1986 1987 April 1987
Network Card Network Card Network Day
May 1987 October 1987 April 1988
Network Card Network Day Network Card
May 1988 August 1988 January 1989
Kids Out Quids In
1986 - Voucher Booklet
Love Train
Love Train Commercial
Click image to watch
Network Day Network Card Network Card
April 1989 June 1989 December 1989
Network Day Network Day Network Card
1990 1991 1995
Unigate Milk Bottle Unigate Milk Bottle
Unigate milk bottle Unigate milk bottle
Coop Milk bottle Coop Milk bottle
Coop milk bottle Coop milk bottle
Network Card Network Card
Network Card Network Card Day
Network Card Network Card
Network Card Day Network Card
Terms & Conditions Leaflet
Network Card Competition Network Card Day
Network Card Competition Advertisement for Ian Allan sponsored Network Day
Sales of Network Cards from Network SouthEast ticket outlets
(stations and appointed travel agents):

By December 198679,000 (including the 40,000 advance issues to KOQI customers)
By April 1987113,000
By April 1988194,000 (including renewals)
By April 1989220,000 (including renewals)
By April 1990298,000 (including renewals)
By March 1994there were more than 500,000 Network Card holders

With rail privatisation approaching, responsibility for both the Network Card and Gold Card brands was transferred to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) from 1st April 1994.

The next chapter for Network Card

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has always had difficulty in getting the individual Train Operating Companies (TOCs) to support the residual railcard products and to contribute towards the marketing and promotion of them. The TOCs don‘t feel they have ownership of or any great affinity for these remnants from the British Rail era.

By March 2002, ownership of Network Cards had fallen to around 363,000. The price had been increased to £20, advertising and publicity was restricted to the production of a Network Card leaflet. The TOCs argued that the discounted ticket prices available to Network Card holders were abstracting revenue from their own ticket ranges. For instance some commuters were purchasing full priced single tickets for their morning peak trip into London and then using their Network Card to buy a discounted ticket for the return trip in the evening. There was also some evidence that some business travel was being delayed until after 10:00 so as to benefit from the Network Card discounts. Network Card was in danger of extinction.

Fortunately, due to the lobbying by passenger groups, the writer and transport journalist Christian Woolmar, the intervention of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, etc., sense prevailed.

Network Card lives on! - please see -

Gold Card

Commuting, particularly to central London, was Network SouthEast‘s primary and core business. A lot of the improvements achieved through ‘Operation Pride‘ directly impacted on this key market consisting of 650,000 season ticket holders with 420,000 of them travelling into and out of Zone 1 every day. Around 275,000 of them were investing in and using Annual Season Tickets, representing a considerable source of ‘up front‘ revenue for the Sector. It was important to communicate the Sector‘s plans and commitments to this key group. The marketing objectives were:
  • To devise a reward scheme to thank them for their loyalty. This would be in the form of a new ‘railcard‘ giving discounts on leisure travel on rail journeys not covered by the season ticket.
  • To develop a database of annual season ticket holders and to mail them with relevant news about Network Southeast
  • To move into a direct mailing relationship with them leading to season ticket renewal reminders and postal sales.
The railcard already existed in the shape of the Annual Season Ticket Holders Railcard which had been introduced by British Rail‘s Director of Passenger Marketing Services in May 1985. However take up had been slow, commuters being deterred by the £5 purchase price. Consequently the Network SouthEast team decided to develop its own card which would be issued free of charge to all annual season ticket customers. Various concepts were tested during 1987 including an entirely new style of season ticket which would double up as the discount card - ‘The 4 Seasons Card‘ An alternative approach was to capitalise on the early success of Network Card and effectively give annual customers a free one.

The final solution was to re-brand Annual Season Tickets and Annual Capitalcards as Gold Cards and print them on special Gold Card ticket stock.

Gold Cards were launched on 24th June 1987. The Gold Card Season Ticket became both the season ticket and a Network Card, offering exactly the same discounts on off peak leisure travel. Holders could also apply for a second, free Network Card for a partner or friend.

At the same time the centralised database of Gold Card customers was established. The first in a series of Network Gold Card News (letters) were sent out in September 1986 with new editions being mailed to customers every three months over the following years. This was obviously an attractive media for third parties, the opportunity to communicate directly with a highly influential and affluent market with the south east. A series of third party promotions were included in the mailings including holiday offers, insurance, reduced price theatre tickets (the Barbican Centre) and Mercury Phonecards with free £1 credits. NSE Marketing carefully selected these promotions and derived some useful secondary income from their inclusion in the mailings.

The next stage was to set up a sales fulfilment centre that could handle both renewal reminders to Gold Card holders and offer a convenient ‘next ticket by post‘ facility. Various specialist direct marketing companies were approached but in the end it was decided to bring the entire operation ‘in house‘. InterCity agreed to establish a Gold Card Centre within Euston Travel Centre, staffed by experienced ticket sellers, etc.

The whole operation at Euston was set up and was running within two months. Gold Card customers were mailed a renewal reminder three to four weeks before their old ticket expired. This sophisticated mailing showed not only the new rate for the next ticket annual ticket but also showed alternative routings and prices, where these were available. For instance, customers who had previously held a ‘point to point‘ season ticket between their local station and ‘London‘ were also given the alternative Annual Capitalcard Season Ticket price. Customers could renew their tickets by completing and returning the application form and payment details. New tickets were sent out by Registered Mail.
Network Gold Card Network Gold Card
June 1987 November 1987
Network Gold Card Network Gold Card
July 1988 July 1989
Network Card
4 Seasons Card
Mercury Card
Mercury Phone Card
Barbican offer
25 October - 21 November 1989
Gold Card News
Gold Card News
Spring 1989
The Gold Card postal renewal service was launched on Friday 1st July 1988.

At its peak the Gold Card Direct Sales postal service was handling over 25,000 season ticket renewals per year ( around 9% of the total market). But this was lower than expected. The main deterrent was the delivery of valuable Annual Gold Cards and Capitalcards by Registered Mail. By definition most commuters were not at home to sign for receipt when the ticket arrived, they were at work. That often meant that a Saturday visit to the local sorting office was necessary, it was easier to do it all at the local station!

This fundamental problem would not be overcome for some years and would rely on new technology. London Underground‘s (subsequently Transport for London‘s) Prestige Project introduced smartcards and ‘intelligent‘ ticket gates at (Underground) stations. By 2004 Oyster Cards loaded with Travelcard Season Tickets, etc could be automatically ‘renewed‘ simply by presenting the smartcard to the reader on the gates at a station nominated by the customer.

For details please see the Transport for London website.

As with Network Card, Gold Card lives on and is still the ‘brand‘ used by the Train Operating Companies and Transport for London for Annual Travelcards, etc. South West Trains, etc have re-christened it ‘Gold Service‘ but the principles remain much the same.

For details please see the South West Trains website.