In 1994 Eurostar changed the way people travel from London to Paris and Brussels forever by operating the first high-speed rail service directly linking the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. Since then, the amount of visitors travelling from London to both these cities has doubled. Originally, the company launched its services out of Waterloo International station in London but in November 2007 it ran its first services from the recently restored London St Pancras International station, with the completion of the second section of the UK’s first high-speed line. Following the move, Eurostar’s fastest journey times fell significantly with London to Paris now taking only 2 hours 15 minutes. Today, Eurostar runs up to 18 services to Paris and nine to Brussels daily.
"We like FileMaker because of its open connectivity with many other standards and programming languages. Because it is so intuitive, developers can focus on the user requirements and not the technical aspects of the system, so you end up with a system that works for the user". - Paul de Halle, Development Director
Eurostar gets on board with FileMaker
Increased efficiency and improved security for staff systems thanks to Linear Blue
- FileMaker Platinum Business Alliance member Linear Blue develops a new system to maintain and improve security for Eurostar staff
- New ID cards have replaced manual processes with automated processes, increasing efficiency. FileMaker is able to integrate with SQL- based ID cards and security systems
- Greater efficiency and improved security
When the Channel Tunnel first opened and Eurostar initially launched, the enterprise was heralded as a wonder of the modern age - where state-of-the-art engineering had finally accomplished the dream of physically linking Britain with the Continent.
As with any international travel operator security is paramount and remains so, which is why an intricate identity card system was established for all Eurostar staff across Europe. This system stayed in place more or less until 2010, encompassing everyone working across the company's European network including all staff at the main London St Pancras International and Paris Gare du Nord stations, such as train drivers, ticket staff and customs officials, as well as coffee shop workers and cleaning staff.
The process of registering these individuals and generating ID cards was relatively manual. Staff had to carry different coloured cards to allow them access to different areas behind the scenes, as well as travel permits if they were working on the trains. Each card required a separate photograph to be taken with a different coloured background.
Every time a card was to be activated to allow access to a certain area, an e-mail had to be sent to the administrator, so they could update the door management system – a long-winded process, which could take days to complete. If an individual changed job roles and needed additional permission to access new areas, another e-mail had to be sent and responded to – again holding up the ability of staff to get on with their jobs.
However, in 2009 FileMaker Platinum Business Alliance member Linear Blue was contracted to develop a new system that would maintain and improve the levels of security inherent in the old system but also automate many of the manual processes.
“The old system was very labour intensive and our task was to streamline the whole process,” says Linear Blue's Development Director Paul de Hallé.
Time frames have been reduced from days to seconds.Paul de Hallé, Development Director
The FileMaker solution:
The FileMaker ID card system developed by Linear Blue has, Paul says, “brought massive levels of efficiency and improved security to Eurostar.”
Using a FileMaker front-end running in a secure server environment, the new system can now be accessed from different locations on the company network, meaning managers can provide their staff with a change of security clearance immediately rather than having to wait for an e-mailed response. This has been done by integrating the ID card system with the door entry security system - both running on SQL databases – to allow a direct flow of data between the two.
“Time frames have been reduced from days to seconds,” says Paul.
“The system also enables users to select from a range of templates to suit the different employee categories and levels of access. These profiles can then be directly printed from the system utilising a specialist ID printer.”
In addition, the new system was also designed so only one photograph needs to be taken per person, with different backgrounds created from the single image. And whereas previously multiple records had been held on each employee, these have now been consolidated into a single, unified record, where related documents, such as work visas and travel passes, can be scanned and stored.
“Overall efficiency has dramatically increased while admin costs and the time to complete tasks have significantly reduced, which in turn has delivered a healthy ROI against development costs,” adds Paul, who says FileMaker was chosen as the front end of the system because of its flexibility and openness.
“We like FileMaker because of its open connectivity with many other standards and programming languages. Because it is so intuitive, developers can focus on the user requirements and not the technical aspects of the system, so you end up with a system that works for the user.”
Samuel Okanlawon, Technical Manager at Eurostar concludes: “The appointment of Linear Blue coincided with a number of other internal initiatives as Eurostar prepared to transform its business into a single, unified legal entity for the first time. The driving force behind this move was a desire to streamline the organisation and improve efficiencies. The solution proposed by Linear Blue has played a part in realising these ambitions. Throughout the process, from the initial planning meetings right through to the roll-out of an employee training programme, the level of professionalism demonstrated by Linear Blue has been exemplary”.
- Increased efficiency – Eurostar now has an ID card system where many traditional manual processes have been automated
- Easy integration – FileMaker can integrate with hundreds of standards including the SQL-based ID card and security systems used by Eurostar
- User-focused – Because FileMaker is so intuitive, developers find they can concentrate on users' needs rather than creating technical work-rounds