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knowledge

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT OLD ORANGE CARDBOARD RAIL TICKET?

You’re familiar with that piece of orange card that train companies have been using for well over 30 years – but is it time for ticketing to get smart? And what would truly smart ticketing mean for passengers?

Our smart ticketing guru, Andrew Steele, Director of Corporate Strategy at SilverRail is at it again, this time he is sharing his expertise on rail ticketing with ‘Campaign for Better Transport‘ via their guest blog.

Here, Andrew discusses the latest ticketing technologies for rail, how they have emerged over the last 10 years, their impact on the industry, and more importantly, the customer experience.

“In addition to that old orange cardboard ticket, you might be surprised to discover that you are actually now able to use as many as 11 (yes that is ELEVEN!) ticket alternatives…”

 “…What was initially seen as a ‘Smart’ revolution in ticketing has become the death of the universal and interoperable products enshrined in legislation at the time of privatisation.”

Andrew goes on to question what more can be done, and how minor changes to industry rules could transform UK rail for the better.

“Some of the ‘new’, ‘smart’ technologies that are being proposed for wider roll out are already between 10 and 20 years old, with issues of their own. Is it now time for a re-think about the possibilities that new technology can deliver to the rail passenger? Should the rail industry consider leap-frogging investments in already out of date solutions, to move straight to technologies that will be fit for purpose in a digital society?”

Read the full article here.

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knowledge

FROM INTERN TO SCRUM MASTER – MEET OUR RISING STAR!

Meet Alexis Tyler, Software Engineer & Scrum Master for SilverRail Brisbane

In our latest blog we’d like to introduce you to one of SilverRail’s rising stars – Alexis Tyler.  In just over a year, Alexis has gone from intern to software engineer and scrum master, despite coming from a non-technical background. To find out how she did it, we pulled her aside for an exclusive interview.

  1. Firstly, let’s get the background information. What university did you go to, and what subject did you study there?

 I went to the University of Queensland where I studied a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree majoring in Mathematics.

  1. How did you first hear about SilverRail?

I first heard about SilverRail at the end of my third year at University. I received an email from the maths department advertising an internship program which were running over the summer, in conjunction with various industry partners. SilverRail was one of the companies participating in the program.

  1. What made you apply for the role at SilverRail?

I wanted to go into industry, and so I thought doing an internship would be great experience for me. The way the program worked at that time you applied to all the companies participating, and so it was actually by chance that I ended up working at SilverRail.

However, once I had completed my internship with SilverRail, and having the most amazing experience throughout – with interesting projects to work on, a fun and friendly environment, and above all, awesome people – there was no doubt in mind that I wanted to come back, and so I applied for a full-time position.   

  1. Had you ever coded before the role at SilverRail?

Whilst I was at University, I did some courses that involved programming. I had experience in Python, Matlab and R. I had also conducted a summer research project the previous year, which involved learning python from scratch and writing quite a lot of code, and so I was confident that I could learn a new language on the job. After I completed the internship, I was proficient in the main languages we use in the Brisbane office today, so I did not consider my lack of University software experience to be a barrier when I applied for the full-time position.

  1. When you applied for the role, did you think your mathematics experience would help with the role at SilverRail?

When I first applied for the internship, I wasn’t familiar with the work that SilverRail did, and even after studying the website, I couldn’t decipher what I would be doing on a day to day basis working there. However, since the role was advertised via the maths department I assumed that my maths skills would be beneficial. During my internship, there were certainly advantages to having a maths background, as my project consisted of researching various algorithms for road journey planning, selecting the most appropriate one for our purposes, and implementing the algorithm described in the paper (an exercise that I had done before in some applied math courses). In my current role, my math knowledge is less directly applicable. However, the skills I learnt at university are very useful. Also, my team works a fair bit on the algorithms behind our products, and so maths knowledge is used a lot there.

 

  1. What sort of training did you receive during your time at SilverRail? (e.g. on the job training / online courses)

When I first started my internship, I didn’t go through any formal training. However, I did spend a week using online tutorials to learn the programming language I would be using throughout, but from then on, I was just learning on the job. Since I have started full time, I have completed a few training courses, I have done an agile scrum training course and a small team leadership course which I have found to be very useful. Overall, much of my training has been on the job learning – working through any issues with the more experienced developers.

  1. Describe a typical ‘day in the life’ of a SilverRail Software Engineer?

The first thing I do when I get to work in the morning is check Slack (an internal instant messaging tool) and my email. Since we are a global company with customers and offices in different time zones, there are often emails I need to action from the night before. After that I work on sprint tasks until it is time for stand-up. We have a stand-up (15 min update meeting) every morning at 9:45am, this gives us the opportunity to talk about what we got done yesterday and plan what we are going to work on today. If we have support tasks that need to be responded to today, we have a “support swarm” after stand-up which is when the whole team goes into a meeting room and assesses and answers all the current support issues together. After that we go back to our desks and work on sprint tasks. This often involves a lot of pair programming or collaboration as we try and have multiple people working on every task where possible. If it is a Monday at lunch time we do yoga in the office. On Wednesdays, we play soccer in the botanical gardens over lunch. After lunch its back to sprint work or meetings if there are any that day.  At some point throughout the day there is usually a game of ping pong.

  1. What’s your favourite part about the role/company?

 My favourite thing about SilverRail is the work environment and the people! Everyone who I have worked with at SilverRail has been friendly, interesting and over the top helpful. I love the focus on enjoying life that SilverRail as a company has, we do a lot of social events, baking contests and table tennis competitions, which are always great fun for all involved. I feel lucky to be one of those people who can honestly say that they like their job! 

  1. What has been your biggest achievement/proudest moment at SilverRail and why?

I would say that my biggest achievement working at SilverRail so far was when I had the opportunity to supervise a maths intern from UQ last summer. I loved working with Matilda, and it was a great learning experience for me, in which I developed my leadership skills, whilst learning about other areas in the business, compared to those that I typically work in. It felt like a real “full circle” moment, as I was able to mentor the next generation of interns, and show them how much fun a career in industry can be – just like my supervisors did for me.

  1. Tell us a bit more about being a scrum master – what it is, and how you were appointed the new role?

 A scrum master is the servant leader for an agile development team. The scrum master owns the team’s process. They help the team perform at their highest level by removing impediments, facilitating meetings, working with the product owner, and coaching the team in the values and practices of scrum etc. After I had been in my full-time position at SilverRail for a few months we had a team restructure and I got put on a newly formed team that did not have a scrum master.  At SilverRail the scrum master is a voluntary position that is decided by the team. My new team thought that I would be the best fit for the scrum master role so I decided to take on the challenge and agreed to do it!

  1. Now that you’ve worked for SilverRail for over two years, in your own words, how would you describe what it is we do to someone new? (maybe mention some customers too)

SilverRail’s mission is to power global rail and lifting the industry into a seamless customer experience. We offer several software products for use in the transport industry (journey planning, booking software etc.). In the Brisbane office, we work on the journey planning software for public transport. We have people from a variety of backgrounds working at SilverRail such as engineers, developers and mathematicians. Our customers are train operating companies, local transit authorities and travel agencies.

  1. How does SilverRail approach solving problems and what methods do they use?

SilverRail approaches solving problems in several interesting and novel ways. One of these ways is by letting scrum teams have “innovation sprints”, an innovation sprint is a sprint where the team chooses a problem to focus on and then is set loose to solve it. They can use whatever techniques or methods they like to solve the problem and are encouraged to be creative and not to worry about trying something crazy! These innovation sprints have been very successful for us in solving several the most challenging problems we have faced as a company. Another way we solve problems is by holding regular communities of practice (COPs) in different areas e.g. algorithms, agile, quality engineering etc. A COP is a group of people who share an interest in a topic and want to learn more about it by interacting with each other regularly. These COPs give us the opportunity to share knowledge, discuss problems and brain storm ideas as a group.

  1. What was the most surprising thing you found out about SilverRail once you joined the company?

The most surprising thing I found out about SilverRail, was how much fun it is to work here. I was very nervous before my first day of work, I didn’t know what my project would be, what the people would be like, or how I would use my skills to solve the problems put in front of me. However, I quickly discovered that everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, they tailored the project to my skill set which enabled everyone to get the most out of it as possible. The winning combination of great people and interesting work is what makes SilverRail a great place to work, a fact I was pleasantly surprised to learn shortly after joining the company.

  1. And finally, two more personal questions about you. What do you like to do in your spare time, or as SilverRail would say – how do you enjoy life?

I enjoy Latin dancing, reading, singing in my community choir and learning new things (I am currently taking a course in Australian Sign Language – AUSLAN).

  1. And but not least, tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

I have lived in five countries (Australia, England, Romania, Russia and Peru) on three continents and can speak Spanish and English fluently. Also, I have a street named after me, by my grandfather, called Alexis Court in Gladstone, QLD.

JOIN US AND CHANGE THE FUTURE OF RAIL TRAVEL

  • Do you want to work on a product that is really changing the world for the better?
  • Are you passionate about programming, software development and cloud computing?
  • Do you like working on difficult problems that have not yet been solved?
  • Are you an innovator with great ideas you’re prepared to defend?
  • Can you work independently, yet still contribute to your team?

If this is you, come join our team and help change the future of rail. We believe anything is possible if we put our minds to it – check out our career page.

Categories
knowledge

INNOVATION & GLOBAL REACH THROUGH AGENCY PARTNERSHIPS

Having recently signed a key deal with SNCF, the French national railway company, Will Phillipson, Co-founder and COO at SilverRail, talks to Global Railway Review about the importance of promoting rail as a viable and appealing long-distance travel option through agency partnerships. Here is his review.

SNCF, the French national railway company, recently signed a key deal with SilverRail, a market leader in rail travel technology.

France is one of the largest European markets for rail with over 1.2bn travellers, and has long been the envy of other countries for pioneering high-speed rail with the TGV network, which today connects 200 cities

The accord means that SilverRail will be able to distribute SNCF products through its SilverCore technology platform to travel management companies and online travel agents locally, in other European countries – and indeed across the world.

SilverRail will be the first non-SNCF partner to connect to SNCF inventories via its PAO (Portail d’Acces aux Offres) API.

This will make it easier for travellers to book SNCF tickets on high-speed, long and medium distance routes through travel management companies and OTAs like Expedia, which in June acquired a majority stake in SilverRail.

“Third parties add to the audience reach and promote rail travel through channels where the operator cannot, “says Will Phillipson, Chief Operations Officer of SilverRail.

He stresses the complementary role of an OTA like Expedia in helping carriers not only expand their existing markets, but also helping to create new ones. Expedia enjoys global brand recognition and so is best placed to promote a national rail carrier’s products to a global market. It can also package SNCF’s inventory with other offerings to create value-added products and new markets for carriers – short-break vacations to cities currently inaccesible by plane for example.

Carriers recognise that if they are to expand the market for rail travel, the role of third-party distribution is critical.  These companies have the customer base and the influence to broaden rail travel’s appeal with special offers, promotions and packages designed to woo travellers to rail, and shift market share from other forms of transport, particularly the private car.

High-speed rail links such as the TGV are a powerful weapon to promote modal shift to rail because as the journey time reduces, the share taken by rail increases dramatically. When travel time is about four hours, rail’s modal share is about 40%, for three hours it is 60%, while for journeys of two hours, it climbs to 90% to 95%.

The familiar names of the digital world are important allies in the carriers’ strategies to encourage modal shift away from car and air travel.

Google Maps can display rail, air and bus options in a single search result to make the planning of journeys simpler and easier.  This is an excellent example of how third-party distributors can capture customers at the planning stage of their journey, as opposed to just the buying part, which the suppliers most likely see.

The focus of global meta players like Kayak and Google Flights will be on displaying air and rail options from a single search with similar speeds of response; offerings rail alternatives to customers who might otherwise only have considered flying.

Voice-driven interfaces take this idea much further. Technology giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are leveraging voice search to make search easier to use, particularly when on the move. In the case of rail travel, these companies can not only learn about their users travel habits but influence travel decisions by promoting more rail travel.

SilverRail’s deal with SNCF is not about shifting business from the direct to indirect channel.

Philllipson.says: “It is about helping rail carriers grow their share of the overall travel market by embracing new technological solutions that allow them to leverage existing relationships with their retail partners and travel agents, and so offer an enhanced service to their customers.

“SilverRail’s role is to provide solutions to carriers that enable them to reach their customers directly and indirectly, allowing them to oversee customer control, yet stay ahead in the innovation race,” he says.

Pierre Matuchet, Senior VP Marketing and Information System at Voyages SNCF, said: “Travel Agency distribution is very important to SNCF, especially when addressing corporate customers.  Agencies can differentiate themselves by innovating on their technological offer, especially online. The good connectivity to our offers is thus fundamental to the quality of their tools.”

SNCF hopes the deal will grow tourism throughout the whole of France, opening up less-visited secondary & tertiary cities in France – not just Paris.

France is the most visited country in the world with 82.6m visitors in 2016. That puts SNCF in an enviable position as every travel distributor wants to enjoy direct access to SNCF and its travel products.

Today, SilverRail is the only IT provider exclusively focused on the rail industry, providing rail carriers with scalable technology. The deal with SNCF builds on that capability, coverage and reputation as a leader is rail distribution technology across Europe.