This blog post is by Dave (DH) and answers some questions he's been asked over the years. Part 1 looks at the history of Save EC Rewards and VTEC and part 2 is about the direction he hopes to see LNER go in the future and views on the Save East Coast Rewards rebrand.
Until we relaunch and offer a platform that allows proper discussion (originally we decided against adding comments to this site to avoid issue of spam and the need for moderation). I thought I'd answer some questions people have asked me in the past as a sort of FAQ.
Are you trying to pass yourself off as an official account?
There's been a few rare occasions where people have thought the Save East Coast Rewards account was an official account for East Coast Rewards. There was a deliberate design decision to use a style similar to the old Rewards pages on the East Coast website, however, that design was not adopted until after East Coast had been replaced with Virgin Trains East Coast and that style was no longer used. The style was intended to be familiar to those who used to be members of the scheme.
The logo below was created as a joke regarding our future rebrand. The idea is to change the name to no longer show a focus on Rewards as well as brand clearly enough that there's no confusion that the campaign is endorsed by LNER. So you can be sure the logo will look nothing like this.
Do you make any money off this?
The site used to contain ads, the ads didn't earn much money as most people interacted via social media. The ads did earn enough to cover the hosting costs and any excess money made was given away in prizes. Currently the site does not have any ads. I was experimenting with ads earlier in the year, I selected an option earlier in the year that let Google position the ads in a more optimum position. This slightly increased ad revenue but made the site more irritating particularly on mobile. As the costs for this year have been covered I decided to remove the ads for now and will review the ads policy after the relaunch.
Where do you get the time?
I tend to use quiet periods to do updates or keep an eye on social media. In the office, where I have multiple monitors, I can have the occasional glance over to Twitter to see if anything interesting is happening. Obviously, I'm paid to do a job and that always comes first which is why sometimes I may not be very active. Outside the working day I normally keep up to date when I'm travelling to/from work.
Have you worked in the rail industry before?
Have you wanted to work in the rail industry before?
I did contemplate applying for GNER in the past but I never really found anything that matched my skill type. I did apply for the Loyalty Manager job at VTEC back in December 2016 and I've looked at some jobs that might match my skills with LNER recently. As you can guess I didn't get the Loyalty Manager job but at this point in writing I've not heard about any of the LNER jobs.
If you did work in the rail industry what would happen to Save East Coast Rewards?
I think if I took any job in the rail industry (even if it wasn't LNER) I'd have to give up my involvement with Save East Coast Rewards as a conflict of interest. I would try and ensure someone would take over before I gave it up. I think the relaunch will help get others interested and they could carry on.
Why did you continue after East Coast Rewards closed down?
The main reason was to remain ready so that if there was an opportunity to push for improvements to the loyalty scheme we were in a position to take them.
Why just now discussing moving beyond Rewards?
The original plan (once we decided to keep going) had been to rebrand shortly after the change to Virgin Trains East Coast to indicate we were covering the East Coast service as a whole not just the loyalty scheme, but throughout 2015 and 2016 we were mostly happy with VTEC (except for Nectar) that we never committed any time to it. After a less than brilliant 2017 we had considered the relaunch anyway even if VTEC still remained. Unfortunately it takes time to do all this.
Why all the flying tweets?
VTEC/LNER compete with airlines on some of their routes, a key on being London - Edinburgh. A number of airlines compete on this route and one of them, British Airways, offers a full featured frequent flyer scheme. In order to encourage VTEC to be more competitive we'd often highlight the benefits that BA and their loyalty scheme could offer.
Why cover non East Coast train services?
Sometimes I cover routes that are not on the East Coast, for example I've recently covered the GWR Pullman service and earlier this year covered taking bikes on Virgin Trains West Coast. The reason I do this is to cover how other InterCity operators in Britain differ in what they offer.
Train v Plane?
I like both! For my most common journey (London - Newcastle) the train would always win if everything is as advertised (most importantly is the catering service reliable). Another reason I may fly rather than take the train on this route is cost at the last minute. I can often use my Avios points to get a last minute rewards seat on the plane for 4000 points + £17.50, that's a benefit of the BA scheme that I really appreciate.
A member of staff in the British Airways Newcastle lounge pointed out to me recently that they seem to see me more in the winter months than the summer. I had a quick check and that was indeed the case, I seem to be more willing to fly in the winter when there's dark nights but in the summer when there's light nights and excellent views I take the train more often!
Favourite Save EC Rewards related memory?
Newcastle Pride 2015. First time I met some of the people from VTEC that I'd only seen online before. It was my first time at Newcastle Pride and although VTEC can't take the credit for the event itself it did impress me all the work they put into lighting up the station in rainbow colours and participating in the event. It was an excellent example of VTEC working well and getting involved with events in the communities that they serve.
Another good memory was the Azuma launch event. I was invited to this so uniquely have a namebadge that has both 'Virgin Trains' and 'Save EC Rewards' on it. It was interesting being invited to such an event and was interesting to speak to all the various VTEC people that were there including the person responsible for the livery.
The campaign to keep East Coast Rewards should have started at the franchise consultation stage before the companies had put their franchise bids in. By the time we started it was already a battle as the contracts had been signed and terms agreed.