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Eurostar & the challenges of station security
01/09/2010 | Channel:
Railway Strategies takes a look at the challenges faced working in an international station
Providing security at any international railway station is always going to be challenging. With over nine million customers passing through every year, security needs to be as good as any international airport, if not better. Security issues are wide-ranging from passenger screening and train searches, through to access control. To ensure an effective service there needs to not only be an understanding of what is happening on a day-to-day basis, but an ability to adapt to Eurostar’s needs.
Experience and skills acquired in the aviation industry are a distinct advantage when dealing with Eurostar’s international rail terminals as there is significant commonality and strict guidelines are set by the Department for Transport. Officers need to have Counter Terrorist Clearance and be trained to DfT standards for X-ray operations, bag searching and body searching. In effect, Eurostar terminals need to have the same diligence and processes as you would expect in any international airport. A layered approach to security is needed. Just having manned guarding is not enough – there needs to be an array of activity from CCTV through to the manual searching of trains.
However, as you assess the challenges of Eurostar security you come to realise it’s not just about the security of travellers that’s important. Speaking to Steve Birchall, head of security at Eurostar, you come to realise the impact security can have on the service throughout the station.
“Safety and security are the main priorities for choosing a security partner, but also just as important are customer service levels. Security officers are the first point of contact with our customers, and we need to ensure their experience on Eurostar is so memorable that they will want to come back again and again.
We also recognise that Eurostar is an incredibly environmentally friendly way to travel. All partners need to be on board with this to make sure all operations are as carbon neutral as possible, this includes security. As a result everything needed to be considered when the security contract began, from officers’ behaviour right through to uniforms, communication and training.”
Tony Medhurst, managing director at MITIE Aviation Security, has worked with Eurostar since 2009 and has seen the security team transform in that time. “When we first took over the contract we recognised lots of improvements were going to be needed to deliver the service to the required standard. These would involve changes not just on our side but with our client as well.”
Initially the challenge centred on taking over a workforce of 300 officers who were working at Eurostar terminals but under the provision of another security provider.
“The first change we introduced was to have support staff as well as senior management permanently based on site. This meant any frustrations about even the smallest issues, such as ordering new uniforms, could be dealt with quickly and easily. Ensuring the transfer process ran seamlessly was critical so individual
meetings were held with everyone involved as well as regular ‘surgeries’, to include the team at Eurostar.”
“Yes, working in an international railway station provides a unique challenge, but it has not been an impossible one,” adds Tony. “You just begin to think about all elements of the work in different ways. Take the uniform for instance – when we issued them to staff we made sure that these were not branded, as we wanted all staff to be seen as part of Eurostar, not separate. We also wanted to make sure uniforms were ‘customer friendly’ for people using Eurostar. As a result, fluorescent reflective material was removed, and instead uniforms were kept plain and smart to blend in.”
It’s obvious that being ‘one team’ is at the heart of security at Eurostar and so many innovative initiatives have been established to ensure a high service level. The creation of a partnership approach allows everyone to be co-ordinated and involved, whether it’s the officer on the train or a team manager; each has a part to play. Regular meetings between Eurostar and their security contractor take place on all levels, from the boardroom through to the operational staff. This means that everyone’s expectations can be met. Not only that but each company encourages the other to become involved in each other’s initiatives or training.
“Currently Eurostar has an in-house training programme called Advantage which we have encouraged all security staff to attend. In addition our contractor has opened up some of their training and development programmes for us to become involved in. This has included training opportunities and staff recognition programmes,” commented Steve Birchall.
One example of co-operation has been where security staff have developed ‘green patrols’ so they know to look out for energy inefficiencies such as lights left on. There is also the added advantage that any cost efficiencies made by the team are shared equally between Eurostar and their contractor.