Manc Frank wins six-figure retainer after improving sentiment for train company

Rail operator First TransPennine Express has made Frank's Manchester offshoot its first retained PR agency as it prepares to compete to retain its franchise.

To me, to you: The Chuckle Brothers have featured in Manc Frank's work for First TransPennine Express
To me, to you: The Chuckle Brothers have featured in Manc Frank's work for First TransPennine Express

Manc Frank has helped improve the positive media perception score for the rail operator from 61 to 73 per cent since starting work midway through 2013, according to the client's media relations manager Matthew Hay.

First TransPennine, which is celebrating its tenth year of operation this year, had never worked with a PR agency before appointing Frank last year after a five-way pitch and its two-strong PR team was "very overstretched", Hay said.

Following a trial period Manc Frank has now been awarded a retainer, understood to be worth a low six-figure amount, to support its consumer PR and stakeholder relations until April 2015.

Hay said the agency would play a crucial role in convincing the local public servants who will be involved in deciding the future of FirstTransPennine’s franchise from this summer that it should remain in place.

Local authorities in the North were brought into a partnership with the Department for Transport recently to work on the design and awarding of rail franchises.

The new franchise in First TransPennine’s area, which extends east, west and north from Manchester, is expected to begin operating in February 2016.

FirstTransPennine has not faced competition for its franchise since starting it in 2004, though it won an uncontested extension in 2011.

It has a much higher proportion of leisure travellers – 70 per cent – than other operators and has the second highest seat occupancy of all rail franchises.

Hay added that Frank had been "pivotal" in getting the message across to the public that the company will be substantially increasing capacity on its overcrowded services in May after making a £60m investment in new trains.

Graeme Anthony, general manager of Manc Frank, said: "Along with publicising the great work and level of service that First TransPennine Express provides, one of our biggest challenges is also convincing more people to travel by rail, to which the £60m investment will signal a new and exciting era."

First TransPennine Express is owned 51 per cent by First Group, which last year was awarded the West Coast Mainline franchise before a government U-turn, and 49 per cent by French transport group Keolis.


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