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Eurostar's CIO Christophe Lemaire is focused on tunnel vision

Mark Chillingworth | Nov. 28, 2012
"There is a lot of ambition to connect the rail services in Europe," says Christophe Lemaire, CIO of the rail operator that originally connected London to the rest of Europe -- Eurostar. Europe's currency and community is having a tough time at present. This is creating hyperbole of currency and community collapse, but a discussion with Lemaire reminds me how integrated our European lives have become and how the business community has hardly left the platform of European possibilities.

Direct connection

Lemaire reports directly to the CEO of Eurostar, Nicolas Petrovic, but doesn't sit on the board.

"The board is very limited, but I'm part of the directorate of the company," he says. Eurostar lists Lemaire on its Management Team web page, something many CIOs fail to appear on even when they are at board level.

Lemaire is enthusiastic about the next step. "The way we collaborate as a company is something that I have never seen before. The understanding of what can come next for the business and where we can help in IT is great.

"I think the way we are seen is of being capable of helping our colleagues and making their lives easier and lowering costs. We are in an ideal place to see how the business is working, identify where there are solutions and help illuminate them," he says.

Lemaire admits IT as a trade has not always put itself into a first-class position: "We are not always seen as the people who can help with business solutions," he says.

But he is confident that the new information strategy and bringing in greater business intelligence will further strengthen the role of IT in the organisation as a way of increasing revenues.

"The CIO role is one of the most challenging and we must make sure that everything is working fine and we are expected to provide new ideas and capabilities," he says of the role. He has an IT budget of around two per cent of revenue of the company, which he says is common in the high-speed rail sector where infrastructure costs are high.

Eurostar's fleet is currently undergoing a major overhaul involving refurbishing the present rolling stock and ordering brand new sets. A major change in the near future is that a part of the company's information systems will be on board the trains, running at 300km/h, which is not exactly the case today. "This is going to be very new for us," he says.

The IT team consists of 50 and as many contractors in the UK and India and he has five direct reports for distribution systems, operation and corporate systems, service delivery, IT infrastructure and security.

In July 2011 Eurostar struck its first major outsourcing deal in a five-year relationship with NIIT Technologies for infrastructure provision. Lemaire said their presence in the travel market helped them in the selection process.

"It was interesting to work with an Indian provider. There is a huge benefit for the business and I am happy with how they provide the service," he says.

Lemaire's team is in the process of providing a new ERP-like depot system to maintenance teams which will better co-ordinate when train sets are in maintenance and improve the management of spare parts. "This is balancing the availability of the trains and stock of parts we have, and providing tools for an increased efficiency of train maintenance," he says.


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