Marie-Ange Sicard (Thalys) on the successful collaboration with Mobility Masters for cleaning the high speed trains:
“The new way of cleaning the Thalys trains reassures our passengers, and that is very important for us”
For 25 years, Thalys has been bringing Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany closer together. The high-speed train takes you from Paris to Brussels in just 1h22′, to Cologne in 3h20′ and to Amsterdam in 3h19′. Marie-Ange Sicard is Cleaning & Comfort Contract manager at the international railway company. “Mobility Masters perfectly meets our main requirement: to be flexible.”
In this capacity, Marie-Ange Sicard is responsible for cleanliness and comfort on board. The French economic magazine ‘Capital’ proclaimed Thalys the ‘Best international railway company’ in 2021. According to Marie-Ange, this is partly due to the excellent cleaning quality of the trains. And that is in the hands of Mobility Masters.
Cleaning at different levels
Cleaning a train is no sinecure. Marie-Ange Sicard knows that better than anyone. After a career in train cleaning she joined Thalys as Cleaning & Comfort Manager.
Since then she has been working closely with Mobility Masters for the cleaning of Thalys trains. “The Mobility Masters team cleans the interior and exterior of each train. Both the complete interior and the flanks, the nose of the train, and the front and side windows. In addition, Mobility Masters also takes care of the technical cleaning. This so-called ‘comfort maintenance’ includes the cleaning of seats, toilets and lighting.”
The cleaning is done at different locations: “Simple cleaning tasks, such as emptying the bins, are usually done at the Brussels-Midi station. More complex work, such as cleaning the front of the train, is done in the Forest workshop,” explains Marie-Ange Sicard. “Of course, there are many other tasks between those two levels, for which Mobility Masters always deploys specifically trained employees and the appropriate equipment.”
Thalys appreciates the reactivity and proactivity of Mobility Masters’ cleaning specialists
Cleaning a train is a logistical challenge, that much is clear. Apart from the practical implementation, there is another difficulty: the tight schedule. “Every cleaning job depends on the arrival and departure times of a train. An unforeseen delay can shorten that available time considerably.”
For Mobility Masters, it’s then a matter of making adjustments quickly. “A cleanup can be less thorough depending on the time available, but always meets the basic criteria. For example, all sanitary facilities are completely cleaned anyway, even if it has to be done quickly.”
“Mobility Masters uses specifically trained employees and the appropriate equipment for each task.”
In cooperation with the team of NMBS/SNCB, Mobility Masters manages to adapt to last-minute changes. “In doing so, the company meets one of our main requirements: to act flexibly,” echoes the international railway company Thalys.
Reactivity is important, but Mobility Masters also makes a point of thinking along with Thalys about innovations and improvements. “Mobility Masters often makes its own suggestions to improve the organisation and quality. That shows their professionalism and know-how.”
COVID-19: a new perception of on-board hygiene
Sicard started working for Thalys just before the COVID-19 crisis. That period brought the necessary challenges, especially for public transport. “Even before the first lockdown, we started disinfecting the trains. Since the corona pandemic, our passengers have a greater need for a clean and disinfected environment,” explains Marie-Ange. “This required a radical reorganisation, to which Mobility Masters also contributed.”
To meet these hygiene requirements, Marie-Ange Sicard took the lead in developing an on-board cleaning service. Hosts and hostesses travel on each train as Thalys Cleaning Operators. Throughout the journey, they attend to the hygiene needs of all passengers. “The Cleaning Operators first disinfect all contact points. As soon as the passengers sit down, a second disinfection of contact points follows. The sanitary facilities are also checked during the journey. At the end of the journey, we ask the passengers to collect their waste.”
Thanks to its collaboration with Mobility Masters, among others, Thalys was able to successfully carry out this huge organisation. “A similar service already existed, but we expanded and perfected it considerably. With success. We notice that satisfaction among our passengers has increased considerably.”
Thalys passengers very satisfied with cleaning
This satisfaction is demonstrated by the positive results of satisfaction surveys that Thalys conducts regularly. “The results of those surveys in terms of cleanliness are excellent, even better than in 2019.” According to Marie-Ange Sicard, this is due to several factors: “One is that COVID-19 challenged us to do extra cleaning on the Thalys trains. Mobility Masters then really listened to our needs and acted accordingly.” That tailored approach is bearing fruit. “The new way of cleaning and disinfecting reassures our passengers, and that’s very important to us.”
“Mobility Masters often comes up with its own suggestions to improve the organisation and quality. That shows their professionalism and know-how.”
Strong with feedback
Besides Thalys, NMBS/SNCB also regularly carries out quality checks on the service provided by Mobility Masters. The way in which the company deals with this feedback is remarkable, according to Marie-Ange: “They immediately correct any shortcomings. But even more important is the fact that they address the people concerned in a constructive way to explain where things went wrong and to show how they can do things better. That is an incredibly strong point that sets them apart from other service providers.”
According to Marie-Ange, that open communication is one of Mobility Masters’ strongest qualities, in addition to their responsiveness. “I can always get in touch with my contacts. Whether it’s a question or complaint, Mobility Masters takes the time to listen. More than that: they understand what we need and take action immediately.”
Icing on the cake
Thalys was named ‘Best international railway company‘ in 2021 by the French economic magazine ‘Capital‘. The icing on the cake for all the efforts made by the railway company to keep its passengers satisfied. Marie-Ange explains that this award is also due to the service providers she works with. “This recognition confirms that our customers are satisfied. The cleanliness and hygiene of our trains play a major role in this. That’s why Mobility Masters certainly deserves an honourable mention.”
Thalys in short
- A fully-fledged railway company since 2015, with NMBS/SNCB and SNCF as shareholders.
- Collaboration with Mobility Masters for cleaning the high speed trains on the Paris-Brussels, Brussels-Antwerp and Brussels-Liège routes.