Who unburdens the NS for it’s critical business applications

We all know the processes that are essential for running the Netherlands as a country – and for which downtime is absolutely not an option. The application chains of NS, a major user of one of the busiest railway infrastructures in the world, is among the most striking examples. How does NS ensure that its IT systems always do 'what they are supposed to do'? Long story short: since 2012, Conclusion ensures that the timetable can be upheld as promised. All the time.




Public Transport


Business continuity

Date published

3 maart 2021

Business continuity: Keeping the world turning. 24/7

The basic principle: large and complex

NS is indispensable for the functioning of our society and is the figurehead of Public Transport. Literally connecting all parts of the country, NS normally transports 1.3 million train passengers per day. NS also providers additional travel chain services, manages 380 stations, and co-develops busy public transport hubs and dynamic city portals. In short, it’s large and complex. NS employs around 23,000 people.

The objective: fully continuous availability

On behalf of NS, we have been ensuring the availability of their core IT systems since 2012. For this purpose, we designed several complex mission-critical application chains. We also ensure that these systems are continuously optimized and maintained – without failure. Agile, resilient, and reliable. The ‘Mission Critical Reference Architecture’ that we developed ensures that the most important principles for permanent availability are safeguarded.

In 2014, NS awarded us the responsibility for the entirety of application service provision, chain service provision, and our mission-critical private cloud under one contract. In recent years, we have expanded our services considerably. In 2020, NS extended the entire contract to the maximum contract term.

The result: the passenger benefits

    Our responsibility focuses on the following three aspects: 

    • always providing up-to-date travel information on all channels;
    • always providing up-to-date information on scheduling of equipment and personnel;
    • availability of practically the entire application landscape including underlying integration and infrastructure platforms.

    Translated into daily practice: with our IT knowledge, we ensure that the trains continue to run and that passengers, train drivers, conductors, maintenance staff, financial departments, and also the business support services receive the right information at the right time to make their journey or perform their task properly.

    We make this possible by deploying high-performance systems based on robust infrastructure. If new investments prove to be necessary, then we can take care of that for you as NS pays for the use. We do everything to ensure the best possible service. As a result, NS passengers benefit.

    The added value: one step ahead

    We serve NS from our Conclusion Mission Critical Operations Centre (CMCOC). Our permanent multidisciplinary teams are organized per application chain. Each team has all the expertise to cover its responsibilities, from daily management to knowledge of chain or other monitoring and projects. One with the NS organization and its process.

    Our teams use a great deal of knowledge of the primary process in their work. During their training, employees are given a tour of the relevant NS departments. What characterizes them is their strong commitment to Public Transport. Such a drive for this work is ‘priceless’, as a well-known credit card commercial says. If something stalls or falters, everyone feels it and does their utmost to restore services as quickly as possible.

    Moreover, everyone focuses on staying ahead of problems and acts accordingly. This way, we ensure the continuous availability of applications as well as the agility of the people who work with them. We always think one step ahead. And much more often than not, more than one.

    We bear the responsibility for the following:

    The permanent availability, agility, and resilience of mission-critical application chains and business applications of NS.
    A modern and future-proof application landscape.
    Up-to-date passenger information in the NS app, on the website and on the platform (up to 24,000 travel recommendations per minute).
    Up-to-date staff information (up to 200 service card changes per day, for 300 trains and 3,000 mobile staff).
    Up-to-date deployment of equipment.
    Permanent insight into the correct functioning of access gates at stations.
    Carefree transition to one future-proof, agile, and efficient financial and logistical system.
    Carefree transition to public cloud, containers, and micro services based on a carefully chosen strategy.

    These partial or full solutions for NS are also from our ecosystem:

    Automatic provisioning and DevOps accelerate building environments

    Together with NS, we achieved more speed and flexibility in building and maintaining the different environments in the development street (OTAP). In the past, it took several days to build environments. With Automatic Provisioning and DevOps, we can now do this within half an hour. In addition, this approach provides full control over the configuration of the various environments. And, thanks to the full automation of configurations, the promotion of changes through the development line (OTAP) is much less complex. Engineers proactively respond to changes rather than reactively, like before. In addition to increasing the quality, it makes for greater job satisfaction.

    Involved from within the Conclusion ecosystem: Amis

    Software? Ready while you wait

    Based on a clear project vision and strategy, we worked with NS towards creating a group of motivated developer teams that can deliver a software release at any time of the day. Shared inspiration promotes cooperation in the group. We have also introduced new software production methods and techniques. The result is a more manageable production process, making value almost immediately visible. Previously, making a release took at least a day and a half. Delivery took place every fortnight. And now? It is ready while you wait.

    Involved from Conclusion: KWD resultaatmanagement

    Safer boarding and alighting with visual boarding aids on platforms

    Crowded platforms can lead to unsafe situations. For example, when the trains arrive and passengers group together at the last moment in front of the train doors. Or recently, with the situation around COVID-19: too many people to ensure that they can maintain a safe distance within a train carriage. Conclusion came up with a solution that prevents crowding while boarding, respects the time schedule of the transport company, and offers passengers more comfort: the installation of an LED beam along the length of the platform.

    Colours lead the way with this LED bar. Passengers can read how long the arriving train is; where exactly the train will stop; where the doors (boarding points) will be, and until what time it is safe to board. The bar contributes to a better distribution of people and increases their chances of getting a seat. For the public transport operators, the shorter boarding and alighting times mean that they can better maintain their timetables. And because the system can keep track of the number of passengers boarding and disembarking via special sensors, transport operators can deploy rolling stock and personnel more efficiently. The LED bar is not yet operational. However, it can be viewed at our demo centre in Capelle aan den IJssel.

    Involved from within the Conclusion ecosystem: Conclusion ForeyeT

    Familiar display for all digital travel information provided by NS

    For many years, train passengers in the Netherlands have benefited from the high level of travel information provided via digital screens at stations and platforms. Sometimes, a highly localized challenge requires a special solution. This is also the case at Enschede train station, where German operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) has been running a fixed timetable to train passengers for some time.

    Although European public transport operators are working hard to make cross-border integration of information services easy, the bundling of the various travel information channels is proving to be a challenge. Until now, that is. Because Conclusion developed the FRIS platform together with NS and ProRail. What does this system do that other parties could not? It integrates transport options, including when they cross borders. By ensuring that the ‘look and feel’ match down to the pixel level with the usual digital screens at Dutch stations, the difference is invisible to the everyday passenger. This way, passengers are served in one overview with up-to-date information on the timetables of both foreign and Dutch carriers.

    Involved from within the Conclusion ecosystem: Conclusion ForeyeT

    Renewal of 17” travel information displays

    ProRail commissioned us to renew all 150 travel information displays on the platforms at the end of 2020. The old displays and their control system were nearing the end of their service life. This reduced their legibility and increased the likelihood of malfunctions. The new displays work with LEDs that are controlled from our own platform. By installing a ‘Sensor Box’, ProRail can remotely operate and monitor the travel information displays.

    Involved from within the Conclusion ecosystem: Conclusion ForeyeT

    How can we make your life easier in the area of critical business applications?

    I would be happy to tell you more about it.

    John van der Steen

    John van der Steen