Eurostar today welcomed the findings from the Independent Review, which was commissioned following the disruption to its train service before Christmas and endorsed by Lord Adonis, the UK Secretary of State for Transport, and Dominique Bussereau, the French Secretary of State for Transport.
The Review’s findings are comprehensive and set out a clear list of recommendations to improve the reliability of Eurostar’s service in extreme winter weather and the quality of its passenger care during periods of disruption. The Board of Eurostar has committed that all of the Review’s recommendations will be implemented as quickly as possible and a series of actions is already underway to address the issues raised.
Going forward, Eurostar will be investing more than €34 million to improve the resilience of the Eurostar trains during severe winter conditions, as well as passenger care during disruption and customer communication both inside and outside the tunnel. Of the €34 million, €13.6 million has already been earmarked for some time for a new tunnel communications system, but the additional funding is a new investment.
Richard Brown, chief executive of Eurostar, said: “I know we let our passengers down before Christmas, and I am determined to put things right. Our priority is to win back the confidence of our passengers by taking all the action necessary to prevent this ever happening again. Our focus now is on fully implementing the recommendations from the Review, as well as those additional measures that we have identified ourselves to improve our service.
“The reliability of our trains is paramount and central to restoring passengers’ confidence in our service. Immediately following the disruption in December, we carried out a series of tests and introduced certain modifications and operational measures, which proved effective in the subsequent severe weather conditions in January this year. We will also implement additional technical measures over the coming months to strengthen the reliability of our trains in line with the recommendations in the Review. To ensure that we fully identify all of the necessary modifications, we will establish a dedicated technical group of engineering specialists from Alstom, Eurostar, and SNCF. This group will carry out an in-depth feasibility study, consulting with other railways operating in difficult weather conditions and in long tunnels. The solutions recommended by this review will then be carried out as part of the mid-life overhaul ‘Mi-Vie’ of our trains.”
In addition to the initial changes made at the start of 2010, Eurostar will be introducing the following further improvements:
• strengthening of our 24/7 passenger care contingency operation
• a 24/7 call center operation during periods of disruption
• smart phones for train managers to facilitate more timely communication with passengers
• a contingency plan to draft in extra staff during disruption
• regular SMS text messaging and email updates for customers
• development of more robust alternative transport arrangements
Over the coming weeks and months Eurostar will be working closely with Eurotunnel to improve communication and evacuation procedures in the tunnel. This includes:
• a €13.6 million investment in a state-of-the art tunnel communication system, which will significantly improve communications within the tunnel
• the joint purchase with Eurotunnel of two further rescue locomotives
• a joint review with Eurotunnel of the procedures for rescue and evacuation
Eurostar confirms its transition to a new structure is well advanced and that it will move from being a joint venture between three railway companies to a single unified corporate entity.
• The Eurostar Board has already announced its intention that Richard Brown, currently chief executive, will become chairman of the new Eurostar company. Prior to becoming chairman, Richard will take up the new position of deputy chairman, effective April 5. He will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Review’s recommendations and for the transition to the new Eurostar International structure. Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF, continues meanwhile in post as chairman. This will enable the strongest possible leadership team to effect the transition to the new organization.
• Nicolas Petrovic, currently chief operating officer, will become chief executive of Eurostar with effect from April 5, 2010.
• Eurostar has also announced that it is appointing Richard Morris as director of business and service continuity, reporting to the chief executive. Richard will lead a dedicated team responsible for implementing the program of improvements recommended by the Independent Review.
Richard Brown said: “Our duty now is to ensure that we quickly regain the trust of our customers. My immediate priority is to implement the plan to deliver on the Review recommendations and drive the new corporate structure through to completion. Together with the other measures announced today, this will secure the operational robustness and quality of service that our customers rightly expect.”