Public transport kept the ball rolling in France during Euro 2016.
In the four host cities of Lille, Lens, Bordeaux and Lyon, operator Keolis shuttled over 1.5 million fans to and from the stadiums and fan zones by bus, metro, and tram.
Overall, 50% of spectators turned to public transport to get around during the championship, and happily there were no dramas, no blips, no conflicts…
“Everything went extremely well, the preparation and organisation were fine tuned, the service frequencies and capacity sufficiently strengthened, the commitment by all involved impressive,” a buoyant Jean-Pierre Farandou, president, Keolis, told Passion4Transport last week.
In Lyon, over 180 TCL metro drivers were mobilised to boost the service, with the system running at maximum frequency three hours before matches. Shuttle buses operated between the Eurexpo tram terminus and stadium every minute, plus all the transport modes were stepped up for two hours after the matches ended.
Keolis Bordeaux Métropole added 25 trams to its network, plus 27 extra articulated buses.
Tadao, the network in Lens run by Keolis Artois Gohelle, carried 12,500 fans with 80 shuttle buses.
On match days in Lille, the network registered 20,000+ more passengers than on a normal day.
“Organsing the transport was complex in each case, but possibly more so in the tram cities of Bordeaux and Lyon,” says Mr Farandou on reflection.
“Both stadiums in the latter two are served by tramways, which as you know are are limited in capacity. So we had to put in a bus service in parallel to absorb the overflow of passengers, and ensure the two worked in perfect harmony.”
Thanks to its metro (automatic), Lille was able to shift greater volumes of passengers faster. Yet here orientation was the name of the game. Flyers distributed in the city centre explained which line, 1 or 2, the fans should take, depending on their seat number in the stadium. This measure sought to avoid passenger flows colliding on arrival.
“I strongly believe public transport was one of the elements key to the overall success of Euro 2016, yet in the aftermath it tends to be overlooked,” says Mr Farandou. Not that the tournament was a first for the Group. Its experience in ‘transporting’ other international events includes the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Boston Marathon, plus the Grand Prix Formula 1 and Australian Open in Melbourne.
Behind the scenes…
Be it theatre or public transport, a huge amount of work goes on ‘backstage’ and in the wings. Achieving high-octane levels of public performance takes time, skills, and resources.
On the security front, further to the filter system at stadiums, managed by the police, Keolis staff checked everyone using public transport by requesting their tickets for travel and the matches.
The operator also worked closely with the city prefectures and police services, plus expert security agents were incoporated into its teams to help design the security system and monitor it during matches.
In every city, around 100 volunteers from Keolis gave their time to inform and guide the public transport users.
“I was also delighted to learn that the four bosses of Keolis were out and about ‘in the field’ every night a match was on in their city,” adds Mr Farandou. “They were under no obligation to do so, but they did, staying until the very end at 2am or later to keep an eye on everthing, until everyone was home safely.”
Technology to the fore
In addition to transport organisation in terms of vehicles and service frequency, security and the human presence, technology played a central role too.
In order to manage passenger flow, a partnership with Israeli start-up Moovit meant real-time, multilingual messages could be sent to fans before and after each match, keeping them in the loop regarding the times and routes of shuttle buses.
More specifically in Lille, Keolis took the opportunity to roll out an NFC-enabled, transport ticketing wristband, by digital security giant Gemalto. Its purpose being twofold:
- to avoid passengers from having to open bags and wallets in public spaces, and
- ensure sooth flow to avoid crowding and bottlenecks, i.e. potential risk situations
“No the wristband isn’t a gadget,” assures Mr Farandou, “but a new way of carrying tickets or travelcards on your person that requires just a flick of the wrist to validate.”
Based on Calypso, the international contactless standard for transport ticketing and city services, Gemalto explains that the wearable ‘incorporates a highly compact secure component, [our] latest technical breakthrough for the transport market.’
“As the trend for wearable technology gathers pace, there is growing interest in our ability to deliver highly compact, contactless ticketing solutions in novel and convenient formats such as wristbands”
Philippe Cambriel, president Europe, Mediterranean and CIS, Gemalto
A limited edition of 5,000 wristbands in red, white and blue went on sale during the tournament. Priced at 12.9 euros with a one-day pass preloaded, they also served as souvenirs, as well as a marketing tool with cool factor for Keolis Lille.
And their game’s not over either. Henceforth the wearables can be reloaded with all public transport passes for Lille, excepting subscriptions.
“Now we’ve seen that they function very well, it’s highly likely we’ll be using them again in the future for other major events,” adds Mr Farandou.
Stars on the move
As well as transporting the public at large, through a partnership with French Railways (SNCF) and via its subsidiaries Kisio et Keolis Travel Services, Keolis was also charged with the more prestigious task of conveying the 24 national teams, together with referees, technical staff, and UEFA VIP throughout the duration of the championship.
To make the 2,400 transfer trips, a total of 59 coaches and 400 drivers were brought into play
“I never thought I would drive players of this level, and especially not the French team,” enthused Hamid El Ayadi, a driver with Keolis since 2001. “My favourite sports are running and swimming, but in this case I closely followed every single match! The mission was a once in a lifetime experience for me.”
Who p(l)ays wins?
Who foots the bill for such a wide reaching exercise? Because all the parts certainly amount to a considerable whole. For Bordeaux alone, the total public transport spend for Euro 2016 amounted to an impressive €1.5 million.
“The costs are considerable, certainly,” acknowledges Mr Farandou, “so we came to agreements with the city authorities to share them. But there are times in life when you have to make the necessary investment to ensure things work out smoothly,” he adds. “And as far as Keolis is concerned, for Euro 2016 it was money well spent.
“Today, any major urban public transport operator worldwide must be capable of managing such international meetings, transporting tens of thousands of passengers over an extended period,” he expands. “It’s quite simply part of what we do.
“And yes, I think for Keolis this proven capability could play in our favour for winning future contracts, proving an extra argument for postitiong our offer, for instance in the Middle East [where Keolis is currently present in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh, Jeddah and Doha].”
Cover photo: All rights reserved Mikel Martinez de Osaba