Helping passengers track their journey and plan destinations

Challenges

In 2012, Eurostar announced a £700 million investment in its fleet, with the purchase of state-of-the-art new e320 trains and the complete upgrade of a number of its existing sets. The investment would add new digital capabilities, including electric sockets, Wi-Fi and an on-board entertainment system to offer customers an ever better experience. As part of the project, it asked its customers what would most improve their travel experience. The most popular request was on-board maps, which would let passengers track their journeys and explore points of interest along their routes and at their destinations.  Eurostar responded by including a mapping service in the new entertainment system for its trains, alongside films, TV shows and documentaries. Eurostar wanted the service to be more than just maps and the train’s location, and inspire travellers to look for more information, such as recommendations for great local restaurants and scenic routes for walking from the station to their hotel.

Solution

Eurostar chose Google Maps and Google Maps APIs to build the mapping service because Google Maps has the most familiar interface, the most comprehensive information about locations throughout Europe, is available in multiple languages, and provides the best tools for customizing map deployments. Eurostar turned to Snowdrop Solutions to build the mapping solution, and Nomad Digital to build the Wi-Fi service with the on-board entertainment platform provided by GoMedia

Eurostar wanted a map with a customized look and feel that would be available to passengers without glitches or delays. This presented unique technical challenges, because Eurostar trains reach speeds of more than 186 miles per hour, and often travel through tunnels, like the 31-mile Channel Tunnel between the U.K. and France. That meant internet access could sometimes be slow or interrupted. Snowdrop Solutions and Nomad Digital created and implemented a customized real-time journey map for Eurostar passengers, built into trains’ seatback entertainment systems.

Snowdrop built the Eurostar maps using the Google Maps Javascript API. It used the Google Maps Static Maps API to make maps available at all times, including during interruptions in internet access. More importantly, Eurostar passengers can access Google Maps in an offline environment via an on-train WiFi-enabled server. This means the maps are always available, even when there is limited connectivity. Nomad’s on-train infrastructure enables the easy integration of cached Google Maps location pages into the on-board environment, where they are hosted and delivered direct to the passenger as part of their portal experience. Map tiles are delivered to the train when the train has WiFi coverage via syncing software from GoMedia. This hybrid offline and online mapping system is a world-first using Google Maps.  Passengers can track the progress of the train, including how much time it will take to get to their destinations. In addition, riders can get information about points of interest at cities to which they’re traveling including directions for walking, driving and taking public transportation at their destinations.

“Everyone knows how to use Google Maps, and it has far more details about things travellers are interested in than any other mapping service, so it was the clear choice for Eurostar.”

Ken Hart, Principal at Snowdrop Solutions

 

Eurostar, Snowdrop Solutions and Nomad Digital collaborate to build a world-first in offline maps for European travellers.

“Google Maps is the ideal offline map solution and we are pleased to introduce this on board our trains in direct response to customer demand. By utilizing these latest mapping technologies and deployments, Eurostar has become the first company in the world to put Google Maps in a train and show the passengers where they are on their journey using the GPS positioning. The addition of this, alongside Wi-Fi connectivity and our on-board entertainment system has helped us to further enhance the travel experience for our customers.”

Neil Roberts, Head of Digital at Eurostar

 

Benefits

  • Helps passengers track their journey and get information about their destinations
  • Maps are fully integrated into Eurostar’s on-board entertainment system
  • Passengers can access Google Maps in an offline environment via an on-train WiFi-enabled server. This means the maps are always available, even when there is limited connectivity.