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Increasing Customer Satisfaction and Efficiency

Case Study with Eurostar

Eurostar International Limited has grown significantly over the past two decades, but with success comes a new set of challenges. When they introduced a new type of train to their fleet, it offered increased capacity to carry more passengers. While this means more high-speed travel for everyone to many more places throughout Europe, it also means more people passing through the Eurostar terminals and more congestion.

Passenger numbers alone were not the sole cause of queues, so Eurostar had to find a way to identify the real triggers and understand how queues could be minimised.

This is how they used AnyLogic’s unrivalled simulation software to do it.

Simulation helps to uncover answers to the most complex questions

Will Jones, a researcher at the University of Kent, has a PhD in simulation modelling. He joined Eurostar on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to help them build a simulation model of their London and Paris terminals to improve the passenger throughput.

“The terminals are big and complicated systems, so you can’t just start rearranging things on the ground — it’s expensive and very disruptive,” says Will. “The idea was to use simulation to test potential options for changes to improve the throughput. We’d make a decision on how to change the terminal based on those findings.”

Eurostar uses several different techniques to counter congestion. New technologies like facial recognition and automated gates to move people through quickly. “But nothing is quite the same as a simulation,” says Will. Using AnyLogic, Will can demonstrate how different factors (trains, passengers, equipment, etc.) are combined. Then he simulates a delay to work out how Eurostar can best manage that disruption when it happens in reality.

Does a queue form because there are more passengers, when there’s a delay on the track, at Border Control where safety checks take place, or because of a combination of some or all of those things? AnyLogic gives Will the answers he needs.

AnyLogic simulation software allows for the testing of every element of a large, complex organisation

There are three popular modelling methods for simulation but AnyLogic is the only software that combines all of them in one package. Each method has a unique benefit, so Will uses a combination of techniques to model the different elements of Eurostar’s system. Then he can examine how one element of the system affects another, rather than study behaviours in isolation and potentially miss a vital link.

This helps Will understand patterns that initially don’t make sense. Like why there is a queue on some days when just 15,000 passengers are travelling but not when there are 20,000.

At Eurostar, the type of passenger affects the network as much as the number of passengers. On days where there are lots of regular business travellers going through the terminal, they move quickly because they’re familiar with the system. On other days when there are lots of people who don’t often use the service or they’re travelling with family, they typically go through more slowly, which clogs up the departure area. This a significant factor in slowing the throughput.

Once the simulation model is built it can group different types of passengers and watch what happens as they move through the gates. Changing the ratio of business to leisure travellers each time reveals why fewer people travelling can result in more delays en route.

Using simulation, Will proves that the type of traveller can have as significant an impact on the network as the higher number of passengers. This clarifies the problem Eurostar has to tackle.

“The simulation is about really understanding what the causes of the queues are and better anticipating the impact of any changes you make,” says Will. The result in AnyLogic is visible as an animation, so you can replay it to others so they can see what happens for themselves.

Share results quickly and easily with anyone, anywhere using AnyLogic Cloud

Simulation produces large video files and often the only way to share these is via the Cloud. The AnyLogic company offers this capability so you can share your work across departments, offices, and nations. Will confirms that “it’s really useful to show my colleagues in Paris what I am working on while I’m in London”.

“You don’t need to be a data analyst to understand it either,” he says. “You show people the simulation and they can see the passengers moving through the terminal. That’s a useful thing when you’re working with non-technical people or other teams. They see the resemblance between the simulation model and their organisation.”

As a result of using simulation, Eurostar implemented a new layout for their Paris terminal with great success. “We’ve just had a really good period with both good throughput and very high customer satisfaction,” says Will. “There are an awful lot of factors that have to go into it, but simulation is a useful tool in assessing all of the options and thinking through the problem.”

SimulAi supports absolute beginners and simulation experts in their bid to get the best results

There is so much that can be done with simulation, and with AnyLogic software especially, that having someone to help when you get stuck is a real relief.

“I progress as far as I can on the model and then every couple of months I get SimulAi to come in,” says Will. “By that time, I’ve normally got a long list of points that I might be stuck on. Some of them they can do instantly and then there are others that we discuss to come up with the best work-around or we decide on a different approach”.

Without this help you might end up with “a more simplified model,” continues Will. “That’s the sacrifice you make if the technical constraints are too hard to get over. Having technical support can give your simulation that nice extra feature, so you can create more intricate models”.

For Eurostar, the result is a fast-moving, improved service for an increased number of happy passengers.