Improving Maintenance Operations for the World’s 3rd Busiest Railway

Improving Maintenance Operations for the World’s 3rd Busiest Railway by Garret Weigel

The Netherlands has more train stations than municipalities. Since its inception within the country in 1839, rail transportation has gone through a significant evolution. The Netherlands is committed to using technology to improve transportation for its citizens, as shown through the availability of electrified trains used throughout the country.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), or in English, Dutch Railways, is a Dutch state-owned company and main passenger railways operator in the Netherlands that transports over 1.3 million passengers per day. To help ensure these passengers get to their intended destinations, they built a centralized platform that provides information used in the preparation of railroad maintenance.

NS’ fleet of trains, railways, and stations is the busiest in the European Union.

Managing Railway Maintenance for 1 Million Daily Passengers

Scheduled maintenance work is required to keep trains running smoothly. NS must deal with both planned and unplanned changes to their service. For planned changes, such as events or railroad maintenance, NS needed a new, user-friendly application to replace and expand upon a legacy application. NS had a previous solution that was not capable of providing a central point of reference for relevant information about planned railroad maintenance. The previous process wasted NS personnel’s time with having to check and keep track of multiple sources of maintenance information.

NS’ legacy system lacked a central view into railroad maintenance information.

It Takes a Village… or a Multidisciplinary Team

Working with a multidisciplinary DevOps team at NS, Mendix Developer Eline Bijkerk of Conclusion helped build their new platform in just 6 months. Key users from various NS departments provided invaluable feedback to help design the system to meet their end-users’ needs.

Eline Bijkerk of Conclusion and a few members of the DevOps team at NS.

A Central Platform for a Network of Rails

Employees are well-prepared for scheduled maintenance now that they are using Gids. In addition to preparation, the platform is supporting the staff when the actual maintenance takes place across their 6,800 km of tracks. NS personnel can now find maintenance information within a single, user-friendly application rather than having to work with a few disparate systems. Bijkerk and the NS IT team have also automated repetitive tasks that the maintenance team undertakes, helping railway employees to focus on more impactful work that ensures passengers ride safely to their destinations. This has increased employee satisfaction due to the application’s user-friendliness.

The new tool is saving time for NS maintenance staff and has a better user experience than their previous solution.

Gids was built during COVID, alongside major DevOps team changes. Despite this, they were able to successfully launch the platform. Because of the collaborative and visual development process in Mendix, new and even remote team members can easily understand the logic behind their application. Bijkerk explains that “Mendix is the perfect tool for quickly and iteratively building an application that conforms to the users’ needs, and it works really well with other applications that are already in use within NS.”

NS personnel now have a central platform to review railroad maintenance information.

Bijkerk and the DevOps team have delivered a solution that allows NS employees to spend less time searching for critical information. This extra time is being spent on more impactful work that helps passengers ride safely to their destinations.

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