People on the North Shore or those around town may have noticed some changes appearing on the Northern Express buses in recent months as some new livery has started appearing on them. The design prominently features the new AT logo which is something in itself that lead to a lot of discussion last year. As with a lot of things like this, some people will love the design while others will hate it and I will leave that up to you to decide what your feeling about it is. Thanks to Craig for both of these two images.

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And here is what the old livery looked like.

It also raises the question of what will happen with the rest of the bus fleet in the future. Currently we have a every single operator having their own, or even multiple different liveries and while it sometimes can be useful, it more often than not only helps lead to confusion. In addition some of the liveries out there are just butt ugly *cough* Birkenhead Transport *cough*. Thankfully it seems that Auckland Transport are finally going to address this as they roll out the excellent new bus network over the next few years.

Having a consistent brand is something fairly common overseas, even when like us they have different companies providing the actual service. For example, London’s famous red buses are easily recognisable even though they can be operated by different companies with just a small logo on the front of the bus differentiating them. My understanding is that under with the new PTOM contracts (I will explain more about these in another post) AT will move to this approach and they will require operators to provide both a fairly high level of bus quality that is higher than what we have now, but also that we have consistent branding. That means that in the nearish future we are likely to see a lot more buses potentially looking like this and while I know not everyone will like the style, at least it will be consistent.

Keen observers may have also noticed that NZ bus have started to consolidate their livery on variation of the Metrolink design as they start to do away with their individual brand designs of Waka Pacific, Go West and North Star. It will be interesting to see if those will all need to be repainted again sometime soon.

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  1. “have started to consolidate their livery on variation of the Metrolink design as they start to do away with their individual brand designs of Waka Pacific, Go West and North Star”

    Those have only been around a few years… wonder how much they could save in branding and repainting costs if they just stuck with one design, rather than got the PR people to do a new one all the time?

    1. No I think the consolidation on the metrolink colours was the best of the four they had and also the one with the most buses on it. The consolidation is largely to improve efficiencies as it is easier to maintain the fleet with one brand and also easier to do things like substitute buses as people can get concerned when say a north star bus turns up on their run when they are used to a metrolink one.

  2. I like it, it’s an improvement over the Maxx livery. The only thing that bugs me is the white stripe on the front. Or maybe it’s just the placement of the text in that stripe. It should be centred, not down the bottom.

  3. It’s excellent. Distinctive and clear, and it communicates movement and direction, as is appropriate for an express bus of this kind.

    (Now, if we could make the 40% busway closer to 100%, we’d be getting there).

  4. I like the brighter blue of the old NEX livery, the new one is handsome though, if a little busy.

    It has been interesting watching the buses around the Shore, the North Star livery that was exciting when introduced has got old very quickly and I was surprised to see North Star liveried buses rolling around the Hutt Valley. Yup, the Metrlink logo is the best of the four.

      1. It’s only two seats or so, which gives you the opportunity to avoid it – and if you’re mobility impaired you won’t be at the back of the bus. These things also tend to be semi-transparent.

        It’s not bad for everyone: there are who’d rather not have the sun pouring through, or who are trying to read or use a phone/tablet/computer and would rather not have the glare.

        1. Yeah but it was always my favourite spot on the bus for a number of reasons: (1) no window pillars blocking the view/sun, (2) window ledge the perfect height to lean your elbow on, (3) ‘Stop’ buttons within easy reach, (4) not too close to the heat of the engine in the back yet not so close to the door to get draft; (5) not so close to the back of the bus that you bump your head when you stand up. I could go on.

          Now it’s just slightly less perfect – I now have to look through tiny dots on the window to see the view. Ah well, easier to sleep I suppose.

    1. That raises another big question, what will happen to things like bus ads. Currently some buses are absolutely plastered with advertising from simple banner ads to the whole bus. Theoretically the money from advertising allows the bus companies to provide the service for cheaper than they would otherwise be able to and therefore less subsidy is required. But if there is going to be a unified brand, will that mean there will be no advertising or if there still will be, how will it be done as to not impact the look of the buses too much and who gets the revenue from it.

      1. Given some bus companies do get money for advertising, are we sure that AT hasn’t paid for the buses to be painted like this?

        Is this part of their advertising budget for the new AT hop cards to be rolled out shortly???

  5. It looks like a giant HOP card which will be great for building a unified brand (once it’s actually extended to buses). Bus looks good, nice and clear.

    My only gripe is the big ‘AT’ logo on the window is right where I like to sit. Blocks my view in the mornings. First world problems.

    1. Gian,
      I was going to remark on that.
      Although that car may be there legitimately, I often see cars that are not. In other words cars use lower Queen Street as a short cut to Quay and/or Customs Street.; I have never seen any policing of this even though cars are not allowed to do this. Given the furore over Grafton Bridge and the keenness to police that I wonder why no checks are ever made here? Or perhaps they are and I have never seen them?
      I don’t like the new livery – navy blue: bleh!
      I’m starting to get concerned at the empire-building at AT; they are just a subsidiary of the Council.

      1. You can enter this area from both Galway and Tyler St without passing any ‘Buses’ only signs. This would be to provide access to buildings in these streets I suspect. And since they are one way there is no other choice but to exit through lower Queen St.

      2. I have seen many years ago the police doing some patrolling but nothing recent, it’s pretty well respected most of the time and I very rarely see anyone turning into it.

        1. On a (somewhat) related matter, on the basis that Britomart will be a “through” stop under the wide ranging bus reforms, could we not have the stops on Quay and Customs streets, and have the square reclaimed for public access only?

          A grassed area where the road is, perhaps a statue or water feature as a nice introduction to the (eventual) Quay St boulevard…..

          1. Are you sure it’s only a “through” stop? My reading of the maps released in the RPTP was that some services would continue to terminate there, e.g. the City Link.

        2. It’s a Beemer and, of course, it’s allowed to be there. High end motorists have a right to be anywhere they want; it’s one of the privileges of being wealthy in Auckland.

  6. I like the new NEX paint scheme, especially having the AT logo so prominent. But shouldn’t they have the NZTA logo too? NZTA invests a good amount of money in the running of those buses…

    Also have you seen the Brisbane City Glider paint scheme? That’s one paint scheme that covers all the passenger windows!

  7. Overkill on the placement of the gay cat AT logo (at least 6 per bus). But it’s good to hear that AT are contemplating a single, if differentiated, livery; not before time. And you have to remember that the red London bus livery was abandoned by the Tories in the early 90s when they farmed the operation of the London bus network out to the private sector: Stagecoach, for example, ran buses with an hideous cream/crimson livery. Thankfully this manifestation of the market was quickly regulated and the red London bus returned.

  8. I like that dark blue, much more modern looking. Looking forward to when they are all the same. Wonder how long that will take?

  9. just butt ugly *cough* Birkenhead Transport *cough*

    Give it 10 years and it’ll be retro. Like how the stuff students wear now was cool when I was about 10.

    1. It is already Retro!! – They haven’t changed their colour scheme ever. The company has been operating for 80 years this year!!!

  10. I believe all buses in a region should be the same basic colour as in London to save confusion. Blue and white are Auckland’s colours. The companies would have to agree to this to win a tender.
    Birkenhead Transport have had a similar livery since before the Harbour Bridge opened and I believe for very good reason. The company is very patriotic to it’s principal area which used to be the Birkenhead Borough. Birkenhead colours were yellow and black and the only difference between Birkenhead and Birkenhead Transport colours is that the yellow is creamier and the principal colour has been reversed, buses more cream than black and the borough the other way round.

    Personally I think Ritchies white with coloured stripes plus advertising looks worse. How can one criticize the Birkenhead livery when most of the others are smothered in grotesque adverts which Birkenhead refuse to have? Another point is that even the new BT buses have rear windows and look like buses not vans!

  11. This bus livery and logo size / placement is good. As a marketing / brand development manager, I don’t have a problem with it.

    I would like to see this colour scheme and AT logo size / placement go on all the EMUs. White can go on the front of the EMUs instead of yellow as section 12.6 of National Rail System Standard 6 does not specify an actual colour, only that “All leading vehicles must have high visibility front ends to a conspicuity standard acceptable to the Access Provider” which means that AT can get Kiwirail to accept white on the front of the EMUs which would ensure compliance to the regulations while enabling consistency in the colour scheme for AT branded buses and trains.

  12. Hi everyone,

    I’m a Senior Designer from Designworks, and also the lead designer on the re-branding project for Auckland Transport – it’s really great to read all the comments here, both negative and positive – all criticism is constructive in my opinion.

    The wider brand signature has been developed so that it can be applied consistently to all the brand touchpoints, which once the rollout has been completed will include, uniforms, buses, trains, vehicles, wayfinding and signage, and also certain aspects of the station fitouts. On top of all this, a consistent look and feel will become evident for all printed and digital communications, the start of which can be seen with the launch of the new HOP card.

    As with all large branding projects, the design process was influenced by both political and functional requirements. Political being the need to represent a link to the council, which is evident in the chosen colour scheme, which matches the colours of the Auckland City Council logo.

    Functional being the need to portray the faster, more efficient transport system that Auckland Transport has and will further become in the future. And most importantly, there was a huge need to replace the existing MAXX brand, which had become irrelevant and detached from Auckland Transport altogether.

    Transport for London was definitely a strong reference point for us when exploring brand architecture – they are a hugely successful brand, and employ a very clear system, when it is actually very complex. The same issues arose in this project, and slowly but surely once the rollout is complete there will definitely be a much clearer, easier to understand system and brand hierarchy.

    I can understand that the livery may not always tick everyones boxes, but we definitely think it’s a huge improvement on the old MAXX branding, and so far the overall response has been pretty positive!

    I’m more than happy to answer any questions that anyone has regarding the design, or the design process.


    1. Nick, I am not sure if you can answer this (but someone may know). You state:

      “which once the rollout has been completed will include, uniforms, buses, trains, vehicles, wayfinding and signage”

      Does this mean all bus companies will be required to adopt the new colour scheme? Will this be for new buses going forward or existing buses as well?

  13. Why the overkill application of the AT logo; at least six of varying sizes? It’s a messy design solution, detracting from the overall livery and suggests not so much unfamiliarity but a sense of unease as to the efficacy of the symbol. By contrast, in their latest incarnation, TfL buses have their white roundel logo applied three times on double decker buses: one medium sized logo on each side and a small one applied to the front bumper.

  14. Here’s another comment in defense of Birkenhead Transport.

    It sure takes some guts to resolutely stick with a heritage brand identity. I heartily applaud the crew at Verran’s Corner! Their buses are the most immaculately presented vehicles in the city, which anyone here would understand if they’ve ever stepped aboard.

    New Zealand is an over-branded place. In years gone by, it was possible to ride a “b.line” route aboard a “Metrolink”-branded “NZBus” vehicle with a “Hop” card, according to a “Maxx” timetable. Too much!

    The uncluttered simplicity of Birkenhead Transport is a welcome relief.

  15. Can somebody please explain what that MAXX nonsense stood for anyway? AT is clear and meaningful — Auckland Transport. Maxx sounds like somebody stammering to get something out goodness knows what.

  16. “the need to represent a link to the council, which is evident in the chosen colour scheme, which matches the colours of the Auckland City (sic) Council logo”

    Please point out where navy blue features in the Auckland Council brand.

    1. Are you being sarcastic? Navy blue is Auckland Council’s master colour. Even a glance at the logo or the wordmark will tell you that, let alone actually looking at their website/any AC collateral or signage/brand guidelines.

  17. Hello guys. I certainly enjoy and look at the new design of the Northern Express AT buses. It is magnificent and it stands to the point that AT is Auckland Transport.

    For the Birkenhead Transport when you mentioned their colour, I was like “cough cough laugh laugh” I do agree with you that Colour is just a bit old fashion now!!!!! but seriously what colour can they replace? after all they are represent Birkenhead?

    So what happen to the NZbuses are they all going to be the same with all the Blue and Silver colour? as most of the buses out there now?? is those Northstar, Metrolink, Go West, Wakapacific is about to go??? the best look out of the 4 lines is Wakapacific one….


  18. While consistency is good, I have to say the Hop brand is underwhelming, which I guess reflects the bureaucratic ethos that inoffesnive is good. Compared to the red Snapper cards in Wellington, the AT Hop is pretty dire and easily lost in a wallet. But I assume this will all be redone in a couple of years time so hopefully it will be revved up a bit.

    The one thing I’ve noticed about the new NEX livery is how dark the blue is – the blue on the metrolink buses is far more appealing and vibrant given it’s brighter and not as dull and dark as the NEX buses. I would urge you too go with the Metrolink blue rather than what’s been applied to the NEX buses.

    Now if only they could lower the cost of actually using these buses, provide a proper terminal for interchanges, hurry up with a proper timetable (my area hasn’t had a timetable change in over ten years)… yes, I know. Don’t be ridiculous.

  19. I saw the new look a couple of times over the weekend and I think it looks much better in the steel as opposed to photos. I like it.

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