Persuading Brits to get back on track for RDG



The Challenge

How do you encourage people to get back onto public transport in a period marked by pandemic?


It is estimated that over £99m was spend on the Government’s stay at home campaign during the pandemic, which included the ‘avoid public transport’ message.

Following the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions in Britain, an integrated campaign was needed to provide reassurance and encourage customers back on to trains. The Rail Delivery Group engaged Grayling to help them boost positivity towards rail, re-engage rail customers and inspire people to travel by train again.


The Solution

A two-tier campaign focused on workers and weekenders

A mixed media campaign titled ‘Let’s Get Back on Track’ was developed to focus on two key groups where rail travel has lapsed most – Leisure and Commuter. Grayling devised a PR campaign structured around two phases of activity between July and November. Each phase of the campaign was delivered against three activation pillars, with different tactics to tap into the respective hearts (via emotion) and minds (via benefits):

  • Prompt: An eye-catching, hard-hitting news launch
  • Incentivise: Promotional stunts, discounts, brand partnerships
  • Inspire: Engaging and emotional content via talent, influencers, and partners

The brief came at a time when people weren’t going to the office, so Phase 1 of our campaign focused on leisure travel – at a time when foreign travel was challenging to say the least.

Our ‘Prompt’ came from the insight that Brits hadn’t been taking their annual leave entitlement, meaning thousands of people had holiday to spare and were suffering from work from home burnout.

To Incentivise, we positioned day trips and staycations by rail as a welcome break from home. A Golden Ticket Giveaway (online) offered a year of travel to 12 winners, while 12 days of in-station activity saw ‘Spin to Win’ events with smaller prizes. To Inspire, artist Claire Rollet reimagined the top 12 UK destinations as one-off pieces of art on the golden tickets, visualising their beauty and accessibility by rail.

To inspire Brits to ‘seize a day’ by train of annual leave after year, fronted by beloved face of the British countryside explorer Ben Fogle. The competition secured over 40,000 entries and meant that the message of how rail travel was the perfect way to experience a holiday despite the pandemic was well-seeded in the minds of the public.

The second phase of the campaign focused on the nation’s commuters as they slowly began to return to the office – this time we highlighted the mental and physical benefits of spending time on the train before and after work, and the many brain benefits that you can get from a relaxing, rail-based end to the working day.

We undertook a partnership with UCL academics, revealing that commuting by train is good for your brain – promoted, again, via a national media relations campaign – then incentivised train travel with access to the commuter rewards platform where commuters could access free coffee, and course upgrades with FutureLearn to boost their CV or follow their interests, and finally inspired them to take some ‘me time’ on the commute so they could really feel the benefits of being back on board.

The Results

Trains are DEFINITELY back...

increase in web traffic to vs same period in 2020

increase in searches for train bookings during campaign

across earned media