Although it doesn’t involve removing level crossings, the Mernda rail extension is being built by the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA).
This LXRA tweet last week got some attention, and not just from those who have been long awaiting the project’s completion:
Perhaps unintentionally, the tweet text has a double meaning: the font is different from those used previously (it’s the newish Network Sans, especially commissioned for PTV) and the PTV logo, recently plastered over everything, is missing.
Signs in this style were also installed at the new Huntingdale bus interchange earlier this year. (“Hail bus”? Really?)
The PTV logo is also missing off the latest rail map which started rolling out in early 2017.
Okay, is THIS the final rebrand?
There have been so many public transport rebrandings over the years, most of us have lost count.
In some parts of Melbourne, just in the past 25 years, we have seen the trains branded as:
- The Met/PTC
- Bayside Trains / Hillside Trains
- M>Train (on the Bayside trains lines)
- Connex (on the Hillside lines, then across the system)
This is in contrast to Victorian Railways, which ran the trains from 1859 to 1983. The branding would have changed over time, but at least the name remained the same (apart from shortening to Vicrail in the 1970s).
Now what? TfV? Unclear, since the TfV isn’t appearing on these signs either.
I really hope it’s not another full rebrand. Perhaps it’s just a stripping things back to the colours, at least on station signage.
But hopefully it’s the last major change, and hopefully it’s a gradual rollout as signs need replacing, rather than a huge expensive fast replacement.
Where did the colours come from?
The modal colours — green for trams, orange for buses, blue for trains, purple for V/Line — were devised around 2003, and introduced with the Metlink (and Viclink) signage across the network.
The Metlink changes were a good start at unifying the branding, which had long been a complete mess, with individual train and tram operators having quite different styles of maps and signage when the system was initially split-up and privatised (1999-2004), and there had long been similar issues across the many bus operators.
The Metlink branding didn’t include vehicle liveries, but did at least put Metlink logos on everything, and made all the signage standard, with colours for each mode, and wayfinding showing connections between them.
Later PTV branding expanded the scheme to vehicle liveries, by taking the Metro design and adopting it for trams and buses too.
Why did they choose those colours? Well, we don’t know for sure, but…
Green has long been associated with trams. The Met used it in the 1980s (for all modes), and this in turn harked back to the Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board (formed in the 1920s) which had used green initially when the St Kilda Road route was electrified in 1925, then later for their entire fleet.
Blue was used as the main colour for the Victorian Railways, first introduced in 1937 on the Spirit Of Progress, and included on the “blue” Harris suburban trains rolled out from the 1950s, and used on other pre-1980s regional carriages.
Orange was a colour used extensively across all modes of Victorian public transport in the 1970s and 80s, including prominently on the MMTB bus fleet, which might explain why it’s ended up as the Metlink/PTV bus colour.
And purple for V/Line? Perhaps they just wanted something different to the others – as far as I can make out, there is no particular precedent for using purple.
I don’t mind the current set of colours. They seem to work quite well, including on signage that needs to point people between multiple modes. And having been around for about fifteen years, people are getting used to them.
While Metlink had a single compact logo, which some described as a fish, PTV took over from Metlink, triggering a rebrand.
I’m not enamoured of the PTV logo, and I’m not disappointed to see it vanish off the signs (though I hope this will be a gradual phaseout as signs are replaced, rather than yet another huge expensive replacement exercise).
The removal of the PTV logo may reflect that parts of its job have been moved across to new umbrella body Transport for Victoria (TfV for short).
Let’s face it, the PTV logo was never very good. Although arguably it’s quite recognisable, in some contexts the sideways V risks being confused with a right-pointing arrow. Three letters is arguably too clumsy to use so widely and prominently.
The Metro M logo (and name), for instance, is far stronger, but of course only represents one mode. Prominent blue signs on the street with a strong distinctive logo representing trains make it far easier to find a railway station when you’re in an unfamiliar place.
Alas the Metro logo has been mostly removed from the trains and stations, in favour of the PTV logo.
The Metlink squiggle logo was also the type of shape you could use more prominently and universally, though to my mind it was never terribly well recognised — perhaps it wasn’t around long enough.
If only we could come up with something simple and recognisable, and stick to it, like the London Transport logo, which originated in 1908 on the Underground, but is now used with various colours and labelling to represent the entire London transport system.
As shown above, the Brits use the old British Rail logo (dating back to 1965) to represent anything to do with the National Rail network.
Over in Belgium, a giant B logo (used since 1936) adorns railway stations:
In Brussels you might be looking for the blue M of the Metro — using this letter is very common around the world:
Sydney has moved to single letters to represent trains (T), ferries (F), buses (B) and light rail (L). It seems to work — the single, strong letter has potential to be very recognisable, though I’m not sure about the four different letters having so little else to unite them. But at least they have a plan, and are rolling it out progressively.
It ties into the branding of rail and ferry routes, T1, T2, F1, F2 and so on, which is quite clever; I mean to blog about this another time…
though arguably the ferry routes F1, F2 may confuse some with freeways, which in NSW also use F. (I wonder if they’ll use M for the new Metro lines, or stick with T for trains?)
Is an icon better than a letter, or a letter better than an icon? Pros and cons either way.
The point is, these types of logos are very recognised, thanks to having had a long life, and a good design that you can put them anywhere and everywhere — prominently on the top of a building, or even on directional signage.
This example, part of the “Legible London” wayfinding strategy to me, very clearly communicates that there’s an Underground station nearby, because the logo matches what’s on the stations.
On some of central Melbourne’s wayfinding signage, the icon for trains doesn’t really leap out at you, despite it being perhaps the most important destination marked on the sign… though at least it’s the same train logo used by PTV on the signs outside stations.
Victoria’s new (apparent) strategy of removing organisational logos in favour of just modal icons and colours might work… but then you lose that message about who to contact if you need information. How many people would remember to Google “PTV” if they didn’t see the logo plastered everywhere?
The branding on the signs ties back to what’s used on the vehicles, printed material including maps — and even the colours used on those maps, which in turn show up on the rainbow status boards and Live Updates web site.
I certainly don’t have all the answers here, but I recall chatting to a contact in the bureaucracy when the rail map was being drafted — they are thinking about these issues, and how all the branding ties together.
Part of any service is promotion, and a vital part of the public transport network is easy to use signage, and a branding strategy that works… and that doesn’t keep changing. In Melbourne, longevity might be the biggest failing.
Hopefully this time around we’ll see a good cohesive design, gradually rolled-out across the network, that they’ll actually stick with for more than a few years.