With the 2022 Commonwealth Games (basically the Olympics, but just for countries Britain once ruled) on the horizon and set to be held in England’s “second city” - Birmingham - it made sense to refresh and simplify the ever-confusing public transport network. While I agree with the sentiment, and think the council (and the companies involved) certainly deserves praise for making the ever-important first steps, I have some minor niggles with the way things are being completed.


How Things Are

A small rainbow of liveries that can be seen throughout the West Midlands
A small rainbow of liveries that can be seen throughout the West Midlands
Source: Flickr/martin65, Flickr/kk70088. Flickr/aswans1234567, Flickr/fwc439h
Using a Swift smart card at a railway station ticket barrier
Using a Swift smart card at a railway station ticket barrier
Source: Alwyn Leedham

The Changes

1. Transport for West Midlands

Taking a leaf out of London, Manchester and Wales’ book, we now have Transport for West Midlands instead of a confusing “passenger executive.” Hurrah! The problem here, is that unlike London, Manchester or Wales, TfWM is not the public brand name. We are still desperately clinging onto the “Network” brand, except it’s being renamed to “West Midlands Network” instead of “Network West Midlands.” In my opinion. this seems redundant and adds another layer of abstraction to the mix. It would make much more sense to patch up Network’s poor reputation, and instead focus on building Transport for West Midlands.

The odd one out, why?
The odd one out, why?

These two Reddit comments on a post I submitted to the Birmingham subreddit last year really sums up most of my problems with the new brand:

Comment from discussion TfWM reveals new public transport identity - what do you guys think?.
Comment from discussion TfWM reveals new public transport identity - what do you guys think?.
A re-liveried WM Bus
A re-liveried WM Bus

2. West Midlands Bus

Instead of many different liveries, tickets and brands, the bus services are being unified to be under one umbrella - West Midlands Bus. The routes will still be operated under contract by many different companies, however their busses will all be red and will all carry the same West Midlands Bus brand.

I don’t have a problem with this unification, but…

3. The New Logos

Along with the many new brands comes many new logos. This is where I think things fall apart. Taking a leaf out of London’s book again (noticing a trend here?), we are getting a symbol like the iconic TfL roundel. However, instead of a clean, simple circle with a line through it, we’ve got a hexagon made up of diamonds. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

NOT ALIGNED! (Look at the black, vertical line)
NOT ALIGNED! (Look at the black, vertical line)

The poor logo choice is the least of my concerns however, it’s the logo design as a whole along with the colours. Now, I’m no graphic designer, but THE TEXT IN THE LOGOS ISN’T HORIZONTALLY ALIGNED. Sorry for screaming there, but I seriously do not understand how anyone look at this and said “yes, that’s fine!” To me, it screams rushed and amateurish.

If this wasn’t enough, when placed on the side of a vehicle, the shade of red (in the case of West Midlands Bus) or blue (in the case of the West Midlands Metro) in the middle of the hexagon totally fades away into the paint of the vehicle it’s on depending on the lighting. Again, this just doesn’t look professional at all to me, and it frankly makes me even more embarrassed about the public transportation here.

A mockup of a Sprint vehicle
A mockup of a Sprint vehicle
Source: TfWM

4. Sprint

Since it’s massively expensive to embed rails in the road everywhere, TfWM is investing in a new “Sprint” service. It’s essentially a hybrid between busses and trams - no rails like busses, but dedicated routes and lanes like trams. Maybe it’s just me and I’m missing something, but why not just build more bus lanes? Why do we need a brand new fleet of glorified bendy-busses when we can just focus on improving the current bus services?


Tick Tock

One of the prime reasons for the rebrand was to simplify the region’s public transport and make it easier and friendlier to navigate. As mentioned previously, the vast array of bus companies and other operators overwhelmed many people and discouraged them from using public transport altogether. I understand that liveries, websites and all of that can’t be changed at the snap of a finger, but surely it’s more confusing that the Twitter page for Network has the brand spanking new purple hexagon, while their website still carries all of the old branding. Surly it’s more confusing to only rebrand two bus routes but leave the hundreds of others as they are?

At odds with eachother
At odds with eachother

Closing Thoughts


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