In April 2016 Eurostar International Ltd (“EIL”) issued an RFP with three separate ‘lots’. The first two requirements were for corporate (staff) travel and for crew accommodation. The third, and highest priority objective of the tender was to select a supplier who could provide a full range of disruption management services, both on line and off-line, so that EIL could further improve the way it looks after customers during disruption. Such services needed to be available at EIL’s stations in the UK, France, Belgium and from Q4 2017 also in the Netherlands.
The volume of disruption to Eurostar services is highly variable as it is driven by events usually outside EIL control and so, therefore was the associated cost to them. Disruptions due to technical faults on Eurostar trains usually incur minimal disruption as remedy is within their control. More often, it is external events which cause major disruption to their services. EIL operate a fleet of up to 18 trains per day with maximum passenger number per train ranging from 750-90 and average load factors of between 85% – 90%. So, when a technical issue in the tunnel, a track infrastructure fault or geopolitical events such as those seen in Paris and Calais takes place, disruption is significant and this incurs substantial costs for Eurostar in terms of hotels and taxis for their displaced passengers.
The main requirement for EIL disruption management services is driven by late arriving trains in the evening, where public transport has ceased in the destination city, or cancelled services, with passengers being re-booked on services the following day.
Before issuing their RFP, EIL invited Inntel and other potential suppliers to separate scoping meetings attended by key stakeholders within EIL. This approach ensured selected bidders would have a thorough understanding of the challenges faced. Inntel learned that EIL were highly focused on introducing online, self-service solutions and that it would be really beneﬁcial for disrupted customers to be able to use their own devices for the continuation of their journey. Discussion were held around agreed parameters and cost limits, depending on severity of the disruption, class of travel and consideration to vulnerable passengers. And it was important that the proposed solution needed to have an off-line alternative for passengers unable to self-service. The scoping meeting went on to understand more about EIL’s principles, where key stakeholders explained how the passenger experience is key and the successful supplier would have an effective solution that not only reduced the cost per customer for hotels and taxis but also makes the process an easy, non-processed, personal experience for their customer.
In response to EIL’s RFP that followed, Inntel proposed a custom-built online solution which radically improved the options given to EIL’s customers and the ease with which they could make them. Incorporated in the Inntel solution was a dedicated off-line team that would work 24/7 to support the management and communication with the EIL crisis centre in London, the main ‘hub’ stations of London St Pancras, Paris Gare du Nord, Brussels Midi and Marne La Vallee for Disneyland Resort Paris (and Amsterdam Central from 2017). It also covered Eurostar’s Ski route to the Alps and its Lyon South of France service. The Inntel solution provided a self-service mobile system for passengers whilst on-board a distrupted train, meaning that when they ﬁnally got into a station, a taxi or hotel (depending on their preference and EIL parameters) was already communicated back to them with full details and pre-payment made.
The primary objective of EIL to introduce a system that would feel ‘delightfully easy’ for their passengers was met. The secondary objective of EIL to reduce the costs of train disruptions was also met. Pre-validated accommodation and taxis, all booked within set monetary levels and invoiced by Inntel to EIL centrally with a single invoice supported by detailed data at train and passenger level.
Before Inntel were appointed to work with EIL, signiﬁcantly more passenger refunds were claimed directly and there was little control over this. Now, there is a single ﬁnancing solution. In addition to this, Inntel’s unique post-midnight hotel rate-checker quickly checks hotel availability and costs even after midnight for the same night stays. The intelligence provided on hotel rates and availability enables train managers to make informed decisions about re-routing disrupted trains. The rate-checker has successfully managed incidents for Eurostar where multiple trains have been disrupted, with 100’s of rooms and taxis required, all with a turnaround time of within 60 minutes.