Stepping into the unknown: How your brand can help you get match fit for GBR

Reading time: 3 minutes
Author: Angharad Jones (AJ)

While much of the anticipated (and announced) re-Nationalisation of the British rail network is yet to be defined, the current government has given some indication of what they will be looking to achieve. Granted, the former Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps was more vocal on the subject than the incumbent, Mark Harper, but heading into what looks to be an election year, we can be fairly sure Great British Railways and the reinvention of our rail network is going to gather pace in the coming months. 

So, what does that mean for the businesses throughout the supply chain who are going to be jostling for space in the new Great British Railways lineup? 

Chief Reporter at leading political news platform, PoliticsHome and Westminster insider, Alain Tolhurst had this to say: “Of course, we only have high-level plans from the government right now, and the main champion of those is no longer responsible for delivering them. One thing you can anticipate when No. 10 is involved is that decisions tend to expand out to include the wider measures they are being judged on. Think strong governance, accountability, value for money, working practises and sustainability.” 

Basically, what has been seen as a nice to have, are now table stakes. We’re expecting a lot of new tenders, new relationships to form, maybe some streamlining of suppliers. Ultimately, all the companies that have historically served Network Rail (in any way) are going to be under scrutiny. And that becomes even more ferocious because the new bosses – the government – are going to be under scrutiny too. Don’t underestimate how important it is to LOOK good and communicate your value inarguably, when you’re under the spotlight. 

Standing out while you stand for something 

We know the role that brand plays in demonstrating value and differentiating a business from the rest of the pack – especially in industries where there is either a lot or too little historic competition. And where core competency is a given, and you’re suddenly being judged on other factors – CSR, governance, modernity – the right brand can be the difference between having the tools to communicate your edge clearly and falling behind. 

Businesses need to establish their differentiators and make sure the right people see, understand and believe them. 

Killer question: Do you have a clear sense of purpose or mission that feels modern, sharp and adds value to your offering?

 It doesn’t have to be lofty or saintly – it could be how you work; a promise to deliver more agile SLAs; or a commitment to nurturing the next generation of recruits – but it should be distinctive, well-defined and clearly communicated and integrated into how you present your business

Getting your ESG story straight

The government’s interest in the rail network extends far beyond getting the UK population from A to B. It is a key driver in the shift to more sustainable infrastructure, environmental pledges, and preserving a manufacturing and industrial workforce in the UK. When you look at the bigger picture, your business’ role in keeping the network running smoothly is not the only thing you need to sell. Modern businesses are not only expected to have a point of view on sustainability, governance and DE&I, they’re expected to share it. Anything less than full transparency and clarity on these topics is seen as complacent at best and untrustworthy at worst.

Killer question: Do you have an agreed and authentic position on the macro-topics affecting the industry and wider society?

Again, no one is asking you to solve the climate crisis or write government policy, but a clear connection between what you say on these matters (communications and messaging) and what you do (policy and behaviour) is essential.
Creating the tools to tell a new kind of story about your business 

Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper has confirmed that the legislation “likely” won’t pass before a general election, so in some ways, the industry is sitting in limbo until we know the outcome. But that doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t be getting ready for what comes next. 

Tolhurst reiterated, “When it comes to what will ultimately shape this transformation, a lot will come down to what happens with the general election. Sunak is adamant that his government is about getting things done. He’s out to grasp the nettle of the rail network and make it work for ordinary people. A Labour government may well look to reinforce net zero and sustainability goals. Businesses in the industry need to be ready to show they can help Westminster make a success of Great British Railways, whatever their chosen agenda is.” 

Okay, so assuming you’re putting your hat in the ring to stay in the UK rail supply chain, you need to be ready to adapt to the procurement priorities of the new lot in charge.  

Killer question: Is your business equipped to talk convincingly about more than what you do day in, day out?  

Do you have a coherent story across policy, action, product, service and values? Your brand can be game changing not only when it comes to showcasing your value consistently and compellingly to new audiences and decision-makers, but also in arming you to leverage all the different aspects of your business – from tangible core competencies to differentiating missions, mindsets and ways of working. And if you’re able to tell those stories in powerful, consistent combinations across all your different channels, the multiplier effect can be huge

Get your brand ready for the fight

Your brand is more than just pretty pictures or lofty statements, it’s tangible anchor points into your business that are based on what you know your customers are looking for. Get in touch with our brand and sector experts to discover how the right brand can help you stand out throughout the coming transition and unlock your business’ success as part of Great British Railways. 

We'd love to help you navigate the GBR change.

Email Keith, our CEO, at 

He’d love to hear from you.