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National Express

National Express ran three train companies in the East of England up until early 2012 – c2c, NX East Anglia and Stansted Express. After using some of the big London agencies for many years they turned to East Anglian businesses Jacob Bailey and Free Rein to solve marketing and operational issues they had experienced for some time.


The National Express brief to Free Rein started as a simple data management and reporting exercise alongside email campaigns to understand the return on investment of emails through to on-line purchases.

Free Rein' proactive response to meant we were the organisation to turn to when their existing website repeatedly failed under heavy traffic conditions. NX placed an order to replace the NX East Anglia main website with existing design and content. Within three weeks Free Rein had the new site complete with real-time interaction with service reports, arrival and departure information, service updates and on-line ticket purchase.

Shortly afterwards the brief was extended to provide a full email broadcast system and later in the year a new website for c2c, the NX train service operating between Southend and London – one of the best performing routes in the country.

Then on 2009 with Free Rein adding search and social media consultancy to the mix, NXEA commissioned us to manage much of the search work and detailed ROI reporting.


The breadth of service offered to National Express required as much data, hosting and system architecture design and creative design and imagery. Initial designs were taken from the existing sites to allow migration to resilient Free Rein hosting as quickly as possible where the site was able to support traffic increases of 10 (and later 20) times normal during adverse weather or industrial action.

Subsequent updates to the two websites were rigidly managed to fit within brand and undertaken within the Free Rein development team. Email campaign development and email design was undertaken by Jacob Bailey, the National Express rostered agency.


Both train websites hold a substantial amount of information

  • Company background
  • Jobs adverts and applications
  • Lost property
  • Company and service news
  • Routes and timetables
  • Station facilities
  • Travel offers
  • Service alterations
  • Real-time travel changes
  • Arrival and departure boards
  • … and for c2c, personalised travel pages

The two train sites run on standard Free Rein CMS with a number of APIs drawing content in from JourneyCheck, Nexus Alpha and out to the Trainline.

Emails were moved to a centralised system with the move of Stansted Express email campaigns so that NX as a whole could better manage subscription data for newsletters, offers and service updates.

"Under the hood":

  • Content management system
  • Email Broadcast, with SMS option
  • Extensive access controls for shared management
  • Real-time interface to data and informational systems
  • Personalised travel pages
  • Full version control
  • Extensive statistics