Train spotting, sort of…

Logo of the NS - Dutch RailwaysPeople who have checked my project history, have probably seen that I am doing something at the Dutch railways for quite some time now. Well, tonight I will indulge myself if you will.

The project is about building an application with which the Dutch railways and any other user of the Dutch rail infrastructure should be able to plan all infrastructure, trains and personnel. Now from what I have heard, the way the Dutch railways are operated is almost unique on a global scale. Yes, you’ve read correct. Most rail infrastructure is used in a strict corridor like fashion, a train moves from A to B and B to A, all day long. But here in the Netherlands it really is a network problem. Everything, and I really mean everything crosses each-other at stations and other significant places. Now think about this for a while and let it sink in. Now I don’t know how things work in other countries, and frankly I don’t really care too much about that either. The project I’m in is trying to help planners for the Dutch situation.

Now, not only does the infrastructure need planning, the trains themselves have to be planned as well. Trains need maintenance, and at the start of the day the right equipment has to be available at the right places. Preferably with as little empty night time movements. Starting to feel a bit complex now. Well, that’s not all. Someone has to be on those trains to drive them, and let’s not forget the men and women who check your ticket. In the Netherlands a train is not allowed to depart with passengers without a conductor. Now think about this, personnel should start the day as close to “home” as possible and end up as close to home at the end of the shift as well. Oh and the machinist has to be certified for the type of train he’s running and be certified for the tracks he’s running on too.

Short version, this sh#t is complex. And the coolest part is, the entire effort is starting to feel like it’s going into it’s final stage of development. Sure there will be bugs to fix and deadlines to be met, signals are indicating that crunch time is near. I’ve been on this project for a good one and a half years now. But the effort started like a whole bunch of years ago. Last time I heard it was like 5 or 6 years ago that the first preliminary studies were conducted.

My role in this whole thing? I’m just one of the many hard working developers. My role is mainly focussed on UI and graphical display of data. Questions? Just ask, I’ll see if I can answer them.

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