Set up in the early 1990s to allow British Rail and SNCF (French Railways) to meet their obligations to pay Eurotunnel for the use of the Channel Tunnel, Rail Manche Finance now assists in the design, development, implementation and operation of bespoke computer applications, among other things. Executive director David Hiscock discusses the importance of back-office information solutions and how accounting, clearing, settlement and management systems are changing.
David Hiscock: It was accepted by the joint venture (JV) that its existing internal systems were not capable of meeting the needs either for the role of payment to Eurotunnel or for revenue sharing and settlement of Eurostar revenues for the JV, and that due to the size of the payments and settlements, the speed of the settlement and the very high degree of accuracy needed, that a new approach was needed. This was best suited by the set-up of a new joint entity, which would be able to focus fully on the specialism needed to ensure the systems were designed to meet the requirements and then to operate the systems once the operational phase was reached.
The fact that the same team would design and then operate the system ensured that the design was as optimal as possible. Some of the processes adopted in terms of disaster recovery and business recovery, and use of mini-computers/DB software, were also leading edge at the start of the 1990s, and probably would not have been implemented if the RMF Group was not set up and the railway companies used their own internal systems.
With IS, all things are possible, so I am sure they could solve these things themselves, but the advantages that they get is the access to the specialist or rather niche service without the need to always have to keep this in house with constantly changing personnel. More importantly, they can concentrate and focus on core activities and leave these highly important but niche activities to be undertaken by a proven, successful entity that has a record of delivery of these activities.
Eurostar International and SNCF are, of course, still equal owners of the RMF grouping and this also allows economies of scale for them to use this arrangement.
Not really day to day, but we ensure there is no risk to the delivery of their monthly service; we also keep close to them in terms of their future needs and aspirations so we can provide solutions that will meet their needs.
The feedback has always been very positive, in terms of the delivery of the ongoing services, but also the way we have sought to find and offer solutions to changes in our clients' business needs that can be achieved in the most efficient and economical way.
The need to eliminate as many of the manual processes as possible to ensure that the whole process can be delivered in an optimised and cost-efficient way, while making sure the process is as complete as ever, with no loss of quality. Our clients need for the service to be as close as possible at the start of each month, to allow the data to be consolidated with their month-end processes and to allow the settlements to be made in the shortest window as is practically possible.