Dutch Railways delivers more on-time train services with TIBCO

"Virtual Train" enables staff and customers to monitor train status, open seats, and delays


With over 800 trains, and terabytes of data from trains, passengers, and staff, Dutch Railways wanted to gain better insight into its operations.

"Our ambition is to deliver more reliable and better services to customers and other stakeholders. It's what we call the 'virtual train' concept," said Hans Tonissen, program architect. "Until now, train suppliers delivered all this IT, so each type of train (and we have nine of them) had its own IT environment. It was hard to make it work together, and maintenance was very expensive. We decided we needed generic components and a relatively simple architecture."

The railway operator needed a platform that could handle huge amounts of data and synchronize it between onboard and onshore data centers. The trains needed intelligent train technology for more reliable driving, as well as virtual train technology for travel information, real-time monitoring, and services for maintenance and control unit staff. Dutch Railways also wanted to ease the heart-racing passenger challenge of finding open seats on crowded trains.


Together with TIBCO, Dutch Railways laid the tracks for the virtual train. The company used TIBCO BusinessEvents® streaming analytics, TIBCO ActiveSpaces® in-memory computing, TIBCO BusinessWorks™ integration, and TIBCO® Messaging to create a custom platform to enable the vision.

"We needed a good, scalable, reliable platform to handle the onboard and onshore systems, and a huge amount of data," continued Tonissen. "We also needed guaranteed synchronization with no message loss. We needed streaming analytics and business rules for determining the best GPS service and other applications."


Improved passenger experience

Now, passengers can download the travel planner app and see where all the trains are. TIBCO has made it possible for the railway operator to simply deliver new applications to improve the passenger experience.

"We made a mobile app so people can see train locations and where the open seats are. We have a lot of sensors on the train, and we transmit that data onshore, even from older trains. The solution has made it possible to improve our business and our customer experience," said Wim Liet, program manager for IT.

Predictive, preventive maintenance & on-time service

Dutch Railways can also notify its rail maintenance company, NS Technics, when incidents require action. They can send information about the status of the train so they can see what is going on and can intervene. As a result, NS Technics can anticipate and act so that trains stay on schedule. The speed of data-to-insight is key to bringing real-time data not only to passengers, but to train operators so they can identify potential problems before they occur. "We can also notify our rail maintenance company, NedTrain, when they need to act," says Liet. "We send them information about the status of the train so they can see what is actually going on and can intervene. They can actually anticipate and act so that trains stay on the track, which is really big in the train business."

Innovation, continued ROI

Now, because of the success of their virtual train, other stakeholders have been coming to IT to collaborate on new projects. It has resulted in almost 50 new projects aimed at getting better information and even more business value.

"Because we now have a platform that we can use for all trains, we are getting better travel information, and we can add data from the Internet of Things—but also the Internet of persons. Do we collect that data or don't we? Our commercial department is grappling with that. But, when you collect customer information and give them back something that is beneficial, there's a huge opportunity," says Liet.

Dutch Railways

Dutch Railways is the main public transportation provider for the Netherlands. The state-owned company, founded in 1938, is the busiest rail network in the European Union. It runs 4,800 trains per day, serving more than 1 million passengers.