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SilverRail Extends Partnership with Virgin by Powering Virgin Trains Ticketing

London, UK, July 2022  

SilverRail, the B2B travel technology company that empowers rail operators and travel agencies to transform how they serve customers and run their businesses, is delighted to extend its partnership with Virgin Red by supporting Virgin Trains Ticketing with their new mobile app that allows any traveller to book UK train tickets from any provider across the National Rail network. 

The project will see SilverRail provide Virgin Trains Ticketing with a retail engine that covers the full customer journey, from planning to fulfilment and payment, underpinned by SilverCore, its multi-channel ticket issuing system (TIS). This will allow Virgin to own and optimise all customer touchpoints across its digital real estate. Click here to find out more about SilverRail’s Ticket Issuing System. 

The launch of Virgin Trains Ticketing follows last May’s update to the Virgin Red app, which enables members to buy UK train tickets whilst earning Virgin Points. 

David Pitt, Head of UK Rail at  SilverRail said:

“Virgin is famous for its great customer service and innovation, so we are delighted that the Virgin Trains Ticketing team has placed its trust again in SilverRail following our work in powering the rail proposition in Virgin Red. We look forward to Virgin Trains Ticketing providing customers with a compelling offer that will finally compete with the older digital ticket apps”. 

Virgin Trains Ticketing Director, Mark Plowright, said:

“Now more than ever, customers want to be able to book train tickets quickly and easily while they are on the move and our new Virgin Trains Ticketing app is here to do that while also rewarding customers for their loyalty. With the cost of living increasing, booking your train tickets is an easy way to earn Virgin Points on everyday spending. This is just the start of Virgin Trains Ticketing’s journey and we have lots more planned further down the tracks. In SilverRail, we have a technology partner with the knowledge and knowhow to help us transform rail retail for the customer”.


For media inquiries, please contact:  

Frederic Kalinke, Marketing Director at SilverRail

e: marketing@silverrailtech.com


About SilverRail Technologies (www.silverrailtech.com)   

SilverRail is delivering the digital infrastructure for the global rail industry.  

SilverRail’s technology makes rail easy for rail operators, travel agencies and travellers. Its product suite spans the full customer experience: journey planning, distribution, fulfilment, customer service and data insight. 

SilverRail:  

  • Handles more than 1 billion online rail searches each year  
  • Distributes tickets for more than 35 providers and carriers  
  • Processes more than 30 million bookings each year  
  • Serves more than 1,500 corporate customers worldwide  

SilverRail was founded in 2009 and has offices in London, Boston, Stockholm and Brisbane.   

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How to Move Fast and Not Break Things

As many people reading this will know, there’s an old adage in the world of software development that sends shivers down the spines of people like me — a Senior Software QA Engineer at SilverRail.

SilverRail is a global technology business that helps rail operators and travel agencies transform how they serve customers and run their businesses. After joining the company as a day-one engineer back in 2009, I’ve become accustomed to a certain way of working which fills me with confidence and a strong sense of autonomy — two facets of working life that even some of the world’s most successful companies fail to instil.

As the title of this article suggests, I’m of course talking about the infamous mantra to ‘move fast and break things’. While it’s perhaps a little absurd to critique the words of some of the most successful minds in tech, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that applying this same mindset in many technology businesses would be a recipe for disaster.

Building software solutions that serve the public comes with an important responsibility to deliver reliable, resilient and consistent user experiences that people trust. While the mantra proved effective for a handful of tech companies that harnessed speed over quality to supercharge growth and dominate rapidly-evolving markets, this growth-charged mindset has exposed the tech industry to its fair share of controversy in recent years.

On the contrary, my thirteen-year tenure at SilverRail paints a very different picture of quality-backed growth. As a day-one engineer, I’ve watched the company grow from a small team of ambitious minds to a global team with R&D centres in London, Stockholm, Brisbane and Boston. Despite our growth, the company’s commitment to building sophisticated testing environments remains the beating heart of everything we do.

Despite the challenges of entering new markets and highly-competitive industries, SilverRail’s commitment to testing remains a linchpin to the company’s success and a focus that has shaped my SilverRail journey up to this point.

So, how does SilverRail manage to move fast and not break things? Join me as I dive into the evolution of our testing environments and explore how our quality-orientated approach provides engineers with the confidence they need to build and ship groundbreaking products that are changing the way people move.

The Evolution of QA Testing at SilverRail

The first thing to note is that SilverRail’s advanced testing environments did not magically rise from thin air. As is the case with many companies, the early days required lots of manual processes that led to frustrating delays, the occasional late night, and plenty of head-scratching.

The evolution of SilverRail’s testing environments, however, is a credit to the company’s willingness to listen to its engineers and give them space and resources to build innovative solutions. Specifically, because SilverRail’s ecommerce platform, SilverCore, is designed to simplify train ticket retailing by making it easy for any website to sell rail, we connect with most major rail carrier systems. As a result, one of the biggest QA challenges we faced was our dependency on third parties.

If you’ve ever worked with a product that relies on third-party data, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. When a third party mediates the flow of information between the thing you’re trying to test and the inputs/responses that the test demands, engineers are often left feeling frustrated, confused, and overworked. It can result in significant delays that are typically very difficult to predict or control. 

When we first began testing at SilverRail almost thirteen years ago, running a test on a new piece of code would require several QAs and could take anywhere between twelve and forty-eight hours. Why? Because the chances of finding a window of opportunity where all third parties associated with the test were pulling the right data at the right time were slim.

Whether it’s trying to pull ticket information from a rail carrier in a different time zone that doesn’t process requests outside of its working hours or testing a route that has sold out of tickets, removing the dependence on third parties has helped SilverRail condense its testing processes from forty hours to just forty seconds. To date, we’ve developed over 2,600 automated scenario tests that can scrutinise the integrity of our code without engineers worrying about delays or technical issues associated with third parties.

Enhancing ReadyAPI to Generate Complex User Behaviours

SilverCore is designed to significantly reduce the complexities associated with selling train tickets by providing a fully-integrated service that combines shopping, booking, and purchasing tickets across multiple carriers in a single API.

As you can imagine, testing SilverCore in the early days was like opening Pandora’s box. X didn’t speak to Y, Y didn’t speak to X and Z wouldn’t speak to anything at all.

This complexity meant we were unable to find an existing tool that could handle the diverse range of user behaviours we wanted to simulate. As a result, we decided to look internally by building a homegrown testing service that captures and simulates third-party communications.

This in-house tool was built in conjunction with ReadyAPI to help us generate the tests, capture responses, and critically, bypass third parties when we want to rerun these tests. ReadyAPI accelerates the functional, security, and load testing of web services inside your CI/CD pipeline such as RESTful, SOAP, and GraphQL. For us, this meant we could simulate the two-way flow of information between SilverCore and third parties without actually engaging with them.

However, the stock package of ReadyAPI meant we had to hand craft all of the requests that we wanted to simulate. For every new request, we had to state things like how many people were on the booking, what route they were taking, what kind of tickets they wanted, and how much each ticket costs — an extremely time-consuming process that we wanted to automate.

After some head-scratching from the brilliant team of Backend QA Engineers at SilverRail, we invented our own testing-ws service that bolts onto ReadyAPI.

Nowadays, if we want to create a shop request, we simply fill in a bunch of properties: e.g. “I want to go from Boston to New York, I have two adults, and I want to travel seven days from now”, and then we just run a script. Our testing-ws service then takes those properties and generates a shopping request.

Controlling this process means we can repeat the same test at different times on different days and expect the same result. While live data affords an unavoidable level of uncertainty and inconsistency (e.g. the number of tickets available for a certain route will vary day by day or the timetables can differ throughout the week), simulating this workflow provides control and repeatability — the foundations of all good experiments.

I’ll speak more about the role of this repeatability later.

Diversified Tests to Mimic Real-world Scenarios

The world is messy. While it’s relatively easy to build and test code in isolated environments, the reality of putting technology in the hands of customers can reveal a host of unforeseen issues and challenges that require sophisticated testing protocols.

So how does SilverRail use testing to accommodate for the messy world we live in?

As mentioned above, our customised version of ReadyAPI provides us with a highly configurable solution. Specifically, removing the need for hand-crafted shopping requests means we can test a diverse set of user scenarios. While our previous tests would use a handful of standardised booking requests (e.g. one adult travelling from A to B), ReadyAPI means we can test thousands of different booking combinations and uncover more nuanced issues that would have been previously undetected.

Let’s take a look at how these tests work on a practical level…

How Testing Works for SilverCore

If you watch the video, you’ll see that there are three key components involved in the ‘record’ phase of SilverCore’s testing workflow:

  1. The ReadyAPI user interface that we use to send requests or receive responses to/from SilverCore
  2. Third parties that receive a request from SilverCore and return a response
  3. Documentation to capture what happened during the test

When we generate a request using ReadyAPI (Request A from the video), SilverCore triggers Request 1 which is sent to a third party. The third party then processes this request and returns Response 2 back to SilverCore. SilverCore then computes this response and sends Response B back to ReadyAPI.

At its most basic level, this process serves as a smoke test to detect any inconsistencies between the requests and responses. For example, if we want to simulate a scenario where a customer is searching for one adult rail ticket from London to Edinburgh, we send this request to SilverCore, SilverCore sends a request to the appropriate rail carrier who holds the ticketing information, the rail carrier returns a response to SilverCore, and SilverCore returns a response to ReadyAPI. If everything runs smoothly, we’ll find that the responses match the requests at both modes.

In reference to the video, the two .xml files signify how this comparison process works in practice. After we run a unit test, we record detailed documentation of what happened during the test using two files: a playback file (playback.xml) and a compare file (compare.xml).

The compare file takes all of the information and ‘cleans’ the dataset by filtering out any variable fields that aren’t repeatable between tests. The playback file, however, remains in its raw state — documenting every detail of the test (more on the significance of this later). For the ‘record’ phase, we use the compare file to critique the output of the tests against the inputs documented by ReadyAPI. If we spot any inconsistencies (e.g. A≠B or A=B but 1≠2, we know something has gone wrong and we can trigger diagnostic scripts to pinpoint the error.

You’ll note that the video shows a Request 3 and a Request 5 that correspond with a Response 4 and a Response 6, respectively. This signifies that Request C (generated by ReadyAPI) has triggered SilverCore to send two separate requests to the third party. This could be a customer who’s looking for two adult tickets from point A to point B but perhaps one of the tickets is using a railcard. When the documentation of this test is compared against the original request sent by ReadyAPI, a successful result will show that C=D, 3=4 and 5=6.

The Record Phase of Testing SilverCore

Regression Tests: Play, Record, Replay

The beating heart of SilverRail’s testing capabilities is our ability to recycle and repurpose the information we receive from the ‘record’ phase using regression tests.

Instead of simply running a test in isolation and creating bespoke tests every time we add a new feature or deploy tweaked code to the Git pipeline, our implementation of ReadyAPI means we can run a test, record what happens, and then replay this test at a different point in time to compare the two outcomes.

Importantly, we can repeat this process automatically at periodic intervals to continuously assess the integrity of our ever-evolving tech suite — helping us to grow at speed without being blind-sighted by technical vulnerabilities or third-party dependency errors.

How SilverCore’s Regression Tests Work

  • As previously mentioned, one of the two files we capture from the initial ‘record’ phase is a raw playback file which we use in our regression tests as stimuli to replay the same scenario against the exact same testing criteria. This replay is processed by a test manager that we built in-house called TestExec.groovy (see Figure 1). TestExec.groovy serves the same purpose as ReadyAPI did in the initial test but it’s tailored specifically to work in our ‘replay’ environment.

  • We then take this playback file, load it up in our play space, take the compare file and load it up in our emulation space. From here, we begin replaying all of the requests from the play space. While this happens, the system is also re-recording information from the replay test — if any changes happen, the comparison between a request and response will show a discrepancy and the test will fail.

  • We then save this re-recording as a timestamped directory. This new time-stamped directory (Test101_2009-11-30-12-32-00-358/) is compared to the existing Test101/ record. As long as these two recordings match (i.e. for all of the inputs we send to SilverCore, we receive all the same outputs and for all of the inputs we send to third parties, they’re generating the same third-party outputs), we can be confident that any changes to the Git pipeline do not conflict with the parameters we have previously tested.
Figure 1: The Replay Phase of Testing SilverCore

It’s important to note that the same sets of tests that we derive from this regression process are also integrated into our Git pipelines. This means that when pipelines are built, the unit tests are executed, and then deployment can happen. A subset of tests from our bank of over 2,600 scenario tests then run as part of the pipeline before our developers can merge their code into the master — providing a string of regression tests that are executed by the developer, the Git pipeline, and via a nightly run which automatically exercises all of the tests in a given subset.

This triple-walled approach to regression testing means SilverRail’s engineers begin and end each day knowing that their code has been successfully deployed. In the event that an error does occur, our engineers also have visibility over the problem which means they can find a fast and permanent solution without having to crawl through lines of code or implementing fragile ‘quick fixes’.

At a company level, this translates into the efficient deployment of high-quality tech solutions and on a personal level, it means I can close my laptop on a Friday evening feeling confident that I won’t need to open it again until Monday morning. That’s not something that many QAs could say.

Collective Responsibility: Detecting Errors as a Team

As I’m sure many other engineers reading this will testify, building software solutions that impact people’s lives carries a certain sense of responsibility that can be challenging at times. The expectation to maintain near-perfect uptime while also feeling the pressure to push for continuous feature updates is a responsibility that many tech companies fail to recognise or support.

At SilverRail, however, we’ve adopted a collaborative approach to QA and testing that helps to spread the load across a wider team, reduce the margin for error, and create a sense of collective responsibility that seeps through to the core of our close-knit team culture.

On a practical level, I meet with two Software Architects and another member of the QA team every week so that we have a regular sync point to review the performance of our regression tests, identify inconsistencies, brainstorm whether these inconsistencies indicate potential vulnerabilities and if so, trigger a contingency plan to rectify the error. This process also allows us to identify outdated tests that we need to replace with the time-stamped directory that we generate from the regression testing. 

For example, if we add a new feature and we receive five extra elements in the shopping response, we will update the test by amending the compare file. We have scripts that allow us to take the results from the time-stamped directory of a replay test and commit this into source control — telling the system that going forward, this is our new gold standard. All future tests will be compared to this new file and then a member of the QA team will vet this amendment to make sure it’s a valid change.

Move Fast & Don’t Break Things With SilverRail

Call me biassed but if my thirteen-year tenure has taught me anything, it’s that working as a Senior Software QA Engineer at SilverRail gives you a level of confidence and support that is hard to find in the tech world.

After identifying the significance of strong testing environments all those years ago, sophisticated testing remains a core pillar of our development approach and SilverRail continues to welcome new ideas from engineers and invest in solutions that help us move fast without compromising on quality.

Don’t just take my word for it!

If you fancy some further reading, check out how two Queensland students helped to build a journey planning algorithm that outsmarts Google — it’s a prime example of how SilverRail listens to employees with fresh ideas and takes proactive steps to make them happen.

As we continue on our mission to change the way people move through powerful software solutions, I’m proud to be part of a team that truly believes in its products, values its engineers and continues to deliver quality solutions that make the world a greener place.

Fancy joining us for the ride? Explore our open positions here.

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SilverRail förlänger partnerskapet med SJ

Juni 2022

SilverRail, Travel Tech företaget som förenklar tillgången till globalt tågresande, är stolta över att tillkännage ett långsiktigt samarbete med SJ för att distribuera SJ:s utbud av resor till över 300 privat- och affärsresebyråer.

SilverRails kunder kommer snabbt och kostnadseffektivt få fortsatt tillgång till SJ:s hela utbud av produkter, tjänster, och priser samt tågresor från andra internationella marknader genom sin befintliga API-anslutning eller agentverktyg.

“Vi är glada över att förlänga vår relation med SJ och göra deras utbud tillgängligt för vårt stora nätverk av återförsäljare. I takt med att det internationella tågresandet ökar, är det också glädjande att kunna erbjuda våra svenska resebyråer en kostnadseffektiv och heltäckande lösning för bokning av tågresor, som gör det möjligt för fler resenärer att ta tåget över hela Europa.”

– Anders Aronsson, Head of Commercial

Utöver samarbetet med SJ fortsätter SilverRail att erbjuda övrigt svenskt utbud såsom Vy Tåg, Snälltåget, MTRX och Samtrafikens utbud av länstrafikbolag och marktransport. SilverRail kommer i närtid även att kunna erbjuda ytterligare nationellt och internationellt utbud. 

Dessa partnerskap är en del av SilverRails investering i Distribution+, nästa generations distributionsplattform, som befäster SilverRails långsiktiga engagemang för att förbättra ekosystemet för resor med tåg och marktransport.


För ytterligare information, vänligen kontakta:

Anders Aronsson, Head of Commercial på SilverRail Technologies

e: marketing@silverrailtech.com


About SilverRail (www.silverrailtech.com)

SilverRail delivers the retail engine for global rail. Its product suite spans the full passenger journey: trip planning, booking, payment, ticketing and aftersales.

SilverRail:

  • Handles more than 1 billion online rail searches each year
  • Distributes tickets for more than 35 providers and carriers
  • Processes more than 30 million bookings each year
  • Serves more than 1,500 corporate customers worldwide
  • Was founded in 2009 and has offices in London, Boston, Stockholm and Brisbane.

About SJ (www.sj.se)

SJ is a Swedish travel company that offers sustainable train travel on its own and in collaboration with others. The Group has sales of approximately SEK 7.9 billion and has 4,600 employees. As a market-leading train operator, SJ connects Sweden, as well as Scandinavia’s capitals. Every day, 140,000 people choose to travel with one of SJ’s 1,200 departures from 284 stations.

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SilverRail Extends Distribution Partnership with SJ and Expands with New Carriers

June 2022

SilverRail, the travel technology company simplifying access to global rail, is proud to announce a long-term partnership with SJ, the Swedish national carrier, to distribute SJ’s rail content to over 300 leisure and corporate travel agencies.

SilverRail customers will be able to quickly and cost-effectively access SJ’s full range of products and fares as well as content from other international rail markets through their existing single API connection or agent application. 

“We are delighted to extend our distribution relationship with SJ and make their rail content accessible to our large network of retailers. As international rail accelerates, we are happy to provide Swedish agencies with a cost-effective and comprehensive rail solution that empowers more travellers to take the train across Europe.”

– Anders Aronsson, Head of Commercial

Alongside the SJ partnership, SilverRail continues to offer Vy tåg, Snälltåget, MTRX and Samtrafiken’s PTA and ground transportation content. SilverRail will soon be offering additional national and international markets.

These deals form part of SilverRail’s investment in Distribution+, a next-generation distribution platform, maintaining its long-standing commitment to improving the travel ecosystem.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Anders Aronsson, Head of Commercial at SilverRail Technologies

e: marketing@silverrailtech.com


About SilverRail (www.silverrailtech.com)

SilverRail delivers the retail engine for global rail. Its product suite spans the full passenger journey: trip planning, booking, payment, ticketing and aftersales.

SilverRail:

  • Handles more than 1 billion online rail searches each year
  • Distributes tickets for more than 35 providers and carriers
  • Processes more than 30 million bookings each year
  • Serves more than 1,500 corporate customers worldwide
  • Was founded in 2009 and has offices in London, Boston, Stockholm and Brisbane.

About SJ (www.sj.se)

SJ is a Swedish travel company that offers sustainable train travel on its own and in collaboration with others. The Group has sales of approximately SEK 7.9 billion and has 4,600 employees. As a market-leading train operator, SJ connects Sweden, as well as Scandinavia’s capitals. Every day, 140,000 people choose to travel with one of SJ’s 1,200 departures from 284 stations.

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SilverRail Technologies AB Appoints Tobias Carlborg to Help Deliver Distribution+

13th June 2022

SilverRail Technologies AB (formerly Linkon AB) is happy to announce Tobias Carlborg as its new Managing Director, taking over from Monica Öberg, who is stepping down following her successful transformation of the company.

Last December, we set out our vision to change the way people move through our investment in Distribution+, a next-generation content platform, maintaining our long-standing commitment to improving the travel ecosystem within Sweden.

The new solution will leverage the latest technology and best practice from across SilverRail’s global engineering and product teams, benefiting the 300+ retailers in Sweden who use our distribution hub to sell combined travel easily and cost-effectively. In addition, they’ll get access to the full range of rail content from new markets, such as France and the UK.

As such, it is a natural transition for Tobias to lead SilverRail Technologies AB as he has been at the company for over 7 years and will take on his new role whilst continuing to lead the global finance team.

“I am delighted to be taking over from Monica, who has brilliantly integrated the company into the global organisation whilst refocusing the platform away from inventory towards distribution. There will be some challenges ahead given the rail market dynamics both locally and globally, and I’m very keen to get started. Over the coming weeks, we have some exciting announcements so watch this space!”

Tobias Carlborg

“Joining SilverRail has been an incredible journey and I couldn’t have accomplished our transformation without the support and help from my fantastic team. While the last couple of years have had its fair share of challenges, I truly believe SilverRail has a strong future in the rail distribution space and I look forward to seeing its continued success”

Monica Öberg

We want to thank Monica for everything she has done and wish her all the best in her new role, where she’ll continue working with technology that makes the world a greener place.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Frederic Kalinke, Marketing Director of SilverRail Technologies

e: marketing@silverrailtech.com


About SilverRail (www.silverrailtech.com)

SilverRail delivers the retail engine for global rail. Its product suite spans the full passenger journey: trip planning, booking, payment, ticketing and aftersales.

SilverRail:

  • Handles more than 1 billion online rail searches each year
  • Distributes tickets for more than 35 providers and carriers
  • Processes more than 30 million bookings each year
  • Serves more than 1,500 corporate customers worldwide

SilverRail was founded in 2009 and has offices in London, Boston, Stockholm and Brisbane.

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SilverRail Technologies Integrated Management System Charter

  • Our purpose is to make rail easy, helping people travel smarter and greener.

  • Our mission is to make rail retailing frictionless through technology.

  • Our product strategy is to make rail easy to find, buy and use.

  • Our growth strategy is to be the rail catalyst, proactively driving rail e-commerce adoption.

The company aligns processes and objectives to achieve compliance with these commitments by operating an Integrated Management System (IMS) designed to meet the requirements of ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2017 and ISO 14001:2015.

Quality

Using cutting-edge technology together with our extensive industry experience, we connect carriers, retailers and travellers across multiple channels and geographic areas. Our policy is to constantly improve the customer experience, making rail and multi-modal transport easy to find, buy and travel. We commit to our customer´s success. We do this by being forward-thinking, building the solutions our customers need today and will need tomorrow.

Security

The most valuable assets at SilverRail are the employees, products, leading-edge technology, and data. Failure to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of SilverRail Information and SilverRail Assets will lead to reduced customer confidence and damage to SilverRail’s reputation and brand. SilverRail’s leadership is committed to creating and implementing a strong security program to protect SilverRail Information, assets, and personnel. With this Policy, leadership authorizes the SilverRail Security and Compliance (SSC) organization to lead this effort. SSC develops and manages the SilverRail Security Program, which includes guidance, education, and solutions for enabling a secure and compliant environment.

Environment

We act environmentally, socially and ethically responsibly in accordance with laws, ethical standards and international norms and comply with relevant environmental legislation as a minimum level of performance. We intend to do our work in the most sustainable way possible, through cost leadership and continuously improving quality and our efficiency. We strive for the best possible physical and psychosocial work environment. SilverRail shall be a great place to work where we all take responsibility for our customer’s happiness and are proud of what we do.

To ensure the organisation maintains its awareness for continuous improvement, the IMS is regularly reviewed by the Executive Team to ensure it remains appropriate and suitable for our business. The IMS is subject to internal audit and is externally certified by an independent certification body.

This IMS Charter has been issued by the Executive Team and is communicated to all stakeholders. This IMS Charter will form part of our Training and Awareness program for all employees to ensure the values of meeting our objectives are understood.

Aaron Gowell
CEO and Co-Founder

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Employee Perks: How SilverRail Goes the Extra Mile

The pandemic-induced shift in employer responsibilities presents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to tear up the rulebook, listen to the wants and needs of their people, and embrace forward-thinking perks that put employees at the centre of the conversation.

Here at SilverRail, we’re extremely proud of our bold approach to employee perks and the proactive steps we’re taking to foster a progressive company culture that puts smiles on people’s faces and springs in their steps.

Why Work At SilverRail?

SilverRail is on a mission to change the way people move through innovative products that make rail easy.

Not only does hopping aboard the SilverRail train present a host of exciting career prospects, but it’s also a rare opportunity for purpose-driven individuals to channel their talent towards a powerful mission that will make the world a better place. We’re passionate about the planet and confident in our ability to shape the future of green mobility through groundbreaking software innovation that creates unrivalled passenger experiences.

SilverRail is committed to building a culture that rewards its employees for their talent, celebrates their interests outside of work, provides emotional support when life gets them down, and dares to go against the status quo to build a more equitable workplace.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the perks of becoming a SilverRailer and explore how we’re reshaping the future of work to put employees at the centre of the conversation.

We believe wellbeing comes first, period.

At SilverRail, the wellbeing of our employees is our bottom line. While many companies view wellbeing perks as a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on, we believe the happiness and health of our employees are linchpins to success and an integral driver towards long-term growth.

Whether it’s taking some time out of a busy workday to enjoy a team yoga session or decompressing from an important meeting with a guided meditation, we see it as our duty to provide employees with a choice of wellbeing opportunities and to give them the space they need to balance the pressures of working life. Outside of the office, we also offer employees a free subscription to the Calm app to help with improving sleep quality, reducing stress, sharpening focus and even developing self-improvement techniques for their personal lives.

While these initiatives go a long way to support our team, we appreciate that sometimes, life can get you down and it can feel like you’re paddling against the current. Our Mental Health days are there for this very reason. If an employee ever finds themselves in a difficult place, sometimes the best thing an employee can do is to step back and give them the space they need to regroup.

Our wellbeing policy also includes comprehensive health and dental insurance to keep your pearly whites squeaky clean and your physical health in ship shape.

The mental and physical health of our employees is our absolute priority — it’s as simple as that. SilverRail is proud to foster an open, honest, and supportive culture that puts mental health at the centre of the conversation. Our company mindset provides a safe space for employees to vocalise any issues, ask for help, and support their colleagues through life’s ups and downs.

We actually care about the environment.

At the risk of antagonising the majority of the world’s employers, many HR departments are guilty of greenwashing their employment policies and using the environment as a half-hearted attempt to align with climate-conscious candidates.

At SilverRail, however, when we say we care about the environment, we mean it.

From company-wide carbon offsetting programmes to our ongoing work with Trace to become officially climate positive, SilverRail’s green agenda seeps deep into its core DNA. Our position in the transport sector is highly motivated by our mission to decarbonise the future of mobility and develop groundbreaking technologies that make rail and other green forms of ground transportation easy. 

What’s more, SilverRail is also proud to be a Climate Perks accredited employer — providing team members with additional annual leave if they choose to travel on vacation by train instead of flying. Paid ‘journey days’ empower SilverRailers to live their values and choose a low-carbon lifestyle without compromising on their number of days in the sun!

Check out this video of our Technical Product Manager, Sarah Disborough, taking advantage of our Climate Perks programme with a picturesque train journey through the English countryside before rolling into sunny Devon to recharge her batteries.

We invest in your personal enrichment.

Becoming a SilverRailer is much more than simply becoming an employee — it’s an opportunity to further your personal development, take on new challenges, and push yourself in entirely new directions. In our recruitment process, we look for individuals who are eager to learn and hungry to try new things. Shaping the future of global mobility requires a certain curiosity about the world and a determination to find positive ways to leave your mark.

It’s this eye for determined and visionary thinkers that drives us to provide all SilverRail employees with a host of enrichment opportunities that challenge our people to be the best versions of themselves. From world-leading learning and development opportunities to globe-trotting travel experiences and eye-opening seminars from industry pioneers, we’re committed to taking our employees on a whirlwind journey to discover their passions and explore new horizons.

Specifically, our partnership with Matchable connects SilverRailers with innovative volunteering opportunities that we facilitate via our Paid Volunteer Leave policy. We believe seeing the world through the eyes of others and taking time to understand their challenges is a vital first step towards building a fairer and more united world.

We stand for diversity and equality.

As a global company, we strive to build diverse teams that are welcoming to a rich mix of cultures, races, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, neurodivergent individuals, and people with health conditions or impairments.

We believe in equal opportunities for all and go above and beyond to hone both a hiring process that welcomes diversity and an internal culture that battles against deep-rooted social injustices. While it’s easy for an organisation to make noble claims about their quest for equality, we’re focused on implementing policies that make a real difference and showing results that present hope for underserved groups.

For example, 35.3% of SilverRail employees are female and 64.7% are male — although it might not sound like progress, the average ratio of women to men in the tech sector is 19% female and 81% men. We’re passionate about changing this statistic and are proud to be leading the way.

Similarly, a recent training session on neurodiversity that explored how the SilverRail team can best support neurodivergent individuals is an example of how we’re working to build a more inclusive and empathetic organisation that celebrates different perspectives, experiences and strengths.

We dare to be different with our WFH & Leave Policies.

While many businesses are guilty of shaping their work from home and leave policies around the status quo, SilverRail always endeavours to be one, two or even three steps ahead of the competition.

The traditional workplace suffers from decades of fatigue and outdated policies that simply aren’t fit for the modern era. At SilverRail, however, we’re committed to paving a new path by listening to our people and adopting fresh policies that enhance their quality of life and provide a solid support system that has their back.

So, let’s take a look at just some of our policies that are helping to shape the future of work:

Remote & Flexible Working

It won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that SilverRail has embraced the work from home movement with open arms in the wake of Covid. While this isn’t a particularly stand-out perk in today’s climate, SilverRail’s global presence across three continents lends itself perfectly to remote teams and we’re extremely excited about the opportunity to embrace remote positions going forward — global pandemic or not.

Menopause & Menstruation Leave

SilverRail is home to some of the most visionary women in the global tech and transport space. We’re extremely proud of our female champions and have made it an absolute necessity to adopt forward-thinking employment policies that identify and act upon long-overdue injustices in the workplace.

Our menopause and menstruation policies are designed by women, for women. We passionately believe in the importance of listening to the human body and providing employees with the time they need to approach their work in harmony with life’s natural cycles.

We recently had the pleasure of inviting guest speakers from the Perimenopause Hub to deliver a webinar that focused on the menopause — offering hands-on support to SilverRailers who may be fighting daily fatigue, imposter syndrome and other symptoms life can through at you during this time.

Enhanced Parental Leave

Bringing another human into the world is a big deal. At SilverRail, we’re committed to supporting our employees during this exciting time and take pleasure in offering extended parental leave that supersedes state requirements.

Pregnancy Loss, Fertility & Adoption Leave

Starting a family is an incredibly precious moment in anyone’s life. We understand there can be some extremely difficult moments along the way and have created a pioneering set of leave policies to lighten the load and give our employees the space they need to process major life events.

Competitive Annual Leave Entitlement

While many other employers don’t like to admit it, there is a world outside of the workplace. We understand the importance of letting your hair down and taking time to recharge your batteries in order to strike a healthy work-life balance.

Our generous annual leave entitlement is our way of saying thank you to our team for all of their hard work. No matter how busy things get or what deadlines are on the horizon, we always encourage our employees to take full advantage of their holiday entitlement and enjoy some much needed TLC.

Sabbaticals

Now more than ever, many people feel a compulsion to take a step back from their careers to channel their time and energy into other areas of life.

Whether it’s spending more time with family or grabbing a backpack to travel the world, SilverRail is open to sabbatical opportunities to give employees the opportunity to press pause before continuing their career growth. Taking time to explore new ideas, experience new things, and rethink the way we live is a vital part of an individual’s personal growth that we actively encourage.

Want to help us change the way people move?

We’re always looking for talented people who share our vision for the future of travel. We’re also a remote and flexible employer.

See our open roles and apply here.

Categories
knowledge

How Two Queensland Students Helped Build a Journey Planning Algorithm That Outsmarts Google

Following SilverRail’s acquisition of Jeppesen’s Brisbane-based Journey Planning platform in 2013, our team ‘Down Under’ continues to enjoy the city’s bustling atmosphere and maintains strong ties with many of the founding members who helped to drive the area’s thriving technology scene.

Today, our Brisbane office is home to over 22 SilverRailers and serves as a hotbed for emerging talent across the state. Not only are we passionate about the opportunity to make rail and other ground transportation easy through innovative software solutions, but we’re also committed to identifying the next generation of engineering talent who have big ideas about the future of mobility.

One such example is our longstanding affiliation with the University of Queensland. Our annual internship programme invites burgeoning software engineers and mathematical maestros to apply for an intensive eight-week internship programme that focuses on solving real-world problems — providing the perfect springboard for a career in software development.

SilverRail’s University of Queensland Internship Programme

For the last seven years, SilverRail’s collaboration with the University of Queensland has seen some of the brightest young minds apply their theoretical skills to complex technical challenges.

From creating a Java programme and accompanying app in 2018 that tackled London’s Tourist Trip Design Problem (TTDP) to improving the performance of an intensive data processing procedure in 2020 that reduced SilverRail’s running costs, our interns continue to enrich our product innovations with fresh thinking and novel approaches.

For our 2021-2022 cohort, we were delighted to welcome University of Queensland students, Emily Jones, studying Mathematics and Samuel Jacobi, studying Computer Science with Maths. Throughout the process, Emily and Samuel received ongoing mentorship from SilverRail engineers, first-hand training across a suite of industry tools, and the opportunity to pitch their findings in front of C-level decision-makers.

What Were Emily & Samuel Working On?

While many internship programmes have earned the reputation of doing little more than honing an intern’s tea-making skills or finessing their photocopying prowess, an internship at SilverRail brings a whole new level of intensity and responsibility to the table.

After welcoming Emily and Samuel to the team and taking some time to understand their skills and interests, the Brisbane team got to work on setting their assignment. As part of the team’s mission to change the way people move through innovative search and journey planning products, the brief was to help the existing team improve the efficiency of one of SilverRail’s existing algorithms (KPaths) and to develop elegant solutions to provide end-users with optimised route recommendations.

With KPaths being a powerful asset in SilverRail’s tech stack, we were excited to give Emily and Samuel the opportunity to apply some lateral thinking to a real-world use case and inject some fresh ideas as to how we can refine end-user experiences. Their contribution to the Brisbane team’s search and journey planning technology plays a pivotal role in SilverRail’s wider company mission: to change the way people move through brilliant products that make rail and other ground transportation easy.

What Did They Discover?

After eight weeks of number crunching, scribbling on the backs of napkins and plenty of head-scratching, the Brisbane team cracked it.

While there’s never a final solution to a problem of this nature, we were blown away by Emily and Samuel’s contribution and their ability to understand the nuances of the challenges at stake.

Specifically, they worked on defining query attributes such as “reasonableness”, “desirability” and “diversity” to assess how the existing algorithm (and competitor algorithms) could filter route options to provide the most relevant results to end-users. This ability to combine technical capabilities with a practical understanding of how users might interact with the output data is extremely rare. This is a trait that we value enormously at SilverRail.

A particularly notable discovery was the relationship between slack time and the desirability of a route — where slack time describes the amount of time allowed for journeys to arrive after the earliest arrival time, whilst desirability is calculated using the following equation:

As shown in the graph below, desirability initially increased dramatically with slack because we were able to find more than one good journey that arrived after the earliest arrival time. However, as slack passed a certain point, desirability started to decrease because the algorithm generated lots of possible results for a narrow range of modal routes — providing passengers with a less diverse selection of journey options.

From this graph, we deduced that a slack value of 30-120 minutes will help to maximise desirability.

Emily and Samuel also demonstrated strong collaboration skills when they encountered a difference in opinion as to what approach they should use to adapt the existing ​​KPaths algorithm. While many engineers would see this as a cue to part ways and prove they know best, they chose to join forces by testing both models against each other and pushing one another to maximise the efficiency of each model.

When asked about his experience of working with Emily, Samuel said the following:

“I think we worked great together, and it was good to have someone closer to my skill and experience level to share ideas with and get a sense of how multiple people can collaborate on a single project. It was also relieving to have someone equally baffled as me when we came across especially confusing or challenging problems.”

Emily also shared the following reflections:

“The best part of my internship with SRT was being able to be creative and come up with novel algorithmic approaches to solve a problem. It was a great experience, and it was excellent to have Sam as a peer intern who had skills that complimented mine. I immensely enjoyed having some of my mathematics background and programming experience converge and to learn and evolve as the weeks went by.”

Following several iterations and testing phases, the final results compared a ‘Radius Approach’ which prefiltered results by duration, the number of legs and minutes spent walking and a ‘Transport Mode Approach’ which used a grouping algorithm based on the types of transport used on a given route, against our existing KPaths algorithm.

To our delight, both approaches produced significantly better coverage results than the existing algorithm and, perhaps more impressively, showed a greater result for “desirability” than Google Maps. In this instance, “desirability” is a measure of how much journeys differ from each other — scaled accordingly to incorporate the number of options available in the returned query (see below).

While it’s still early days and more testing is needed to understand user preferences and qualify these assumptions in practice, the SilverRail team were delighted with Emily and Samuel’s input and the personal growth they each demonstrated in just eight weeks.

On top of the clear technical accomplishments of the 2021-2022 programme, Samuel also offered the following words about his first experience of life at SilverRail:

“The best part of the internship has been the people already working at SilverRail. It’s amazing how friendly and helpful everyone has been, particularly how much interest some had taken towards our project. Both of us were new to programming in C# and tackling problems like this so it was fantastic that so many people were willing to help and sit down with us for an hour while we brainstormed solutions and dug through code to find a way around a problem.”

What Happened Next?

So, what happens when two switched-on students take on the challenge of reworking a tried and tested algorithm from a global rail tech company and help them find a solution that has the potential to outsmart Google?

Well, you hire them, of course!

After successfully embedding themselves into SilverRail’s Brisbane team, we are delighted to announce that we have offered them both full-time engineering positions. We loved their can-do attitude and their ability to translate complex problems into elegant solutions that can change the way people move.

Welcome to the team.


Want to help us change the way people move?

We’re always looking for talented people who share our vision for the future of travel. We’re also a remote and flexible employer.

See our open roles and apply here.

Categories
knowledge

Making it easier to book international rail tickets for Nordic clients

Today, we’re excited to announce some product updates that help our Nordic clients sell international rail tickets more easily.

Throughout Europe, international rail travel is having a renaissance. Last year, SJ and Snälltåget, two Swedish rail carriers, launched direct services to Germany, whilst several other rail operators have for the first time in decades, resumed crossborder night trains. Moreover, as rail continues to liberalise, travellers should be able to get even more options to take trains to other countries.

Our mission here at SilverRail is to make rail easy for carriers, agencies and travellers, so given the surging interest in international rail travel, we’re delighted to have launched some platform enhancements that make it even easier for agencies to sell international rail tickets. 

Firstly, travel agents that use Linkonline, will be able to book international rail using the same flow that they use today for domestic bookings. Prices for international tickets, both for IRT and NRT fares, are also now visible in the timetable interface, aligning with how ticket prices are displayed for Swedish carriers.

Secondly, travel agents that use our Sales API will be able to book international rail using the same easy price query in our API that they use for domestic bookings. This makes the integration easier, with only one API call to receive prices for international tickets.

These changes are part of an ongoing investment in Distribution+, our next-generation content platform, maintaining our long-standing commitment to improving the travel ecosystem within Sweden. 

“This is a positive step forward in our mission to make rail easy. The new feature we’ve released today removes the friction for our customers when they’re selling international rail tickets either through Linkonline or our Sales API. It’s part of a set of product enhancements we’re making as part of the wider Distribution+ investment”

Håkan Augustsén, Head of Portfolio Management

So, if you are a travel agency that wants to sell rail easily, get in touch. You’ll be joining over 300 retailers who use our products every day.

Categories
knowledge

IWD #breakthebias

Today we celebrate International Women’s day, a day to recognise the great achievements of women around the world, past and present.

At SilverRail we believe in true equality and inclusion, ensuring each and every individual is recognised, heard and supported to attain greatness!

We asked some of the women powering rail at SilverRail a bit about what International Women’s day means to them and how society can continue to #breakthebias.

Here’s what they had to say:

For me, International Women’s Day is about recognising and celebrating the achievements of women around the world, not just the big wins that we hear about in the media etc but also the small achievements in our everyday lives. It is also about recognising that we still have a way to go, and we need to raise awareness about the benefits of equality, inclusivity and diversity in our ever-changing world.

Lucy Quinn, Manager of Financial Control

I think it is important to acknowledge that bias is part of our humane experience and we all have it to some extent. Starting with the self, usually works. When it comes to bias or any other form of antagonism, I learned that staying away from the “other” and focusing on the self tends to work.

Roxana Diaconescu, CTO

We should be proud of our identity and never be afraid to own it, instead embrace it with confidence and courage.
I strongly believe it should start from the roots. Educating children on gender equality and rights plays a major role in building the future generations. Always encourage the girls to be bold, independent and take risks.
Build an inclusive work environment where women are not afraid to speak their mind.
Inspire and celebrate each other – when women support each other incredible things happen.

Prathyusha Vemu, Quality Engineer

When my grandmother, born in 1916, participated in cycling competitions as a 20- year-old, many were horrified that she had trousers and a bicycle with a buck handlebar instead of a skirt and a regular women’s bicycle. She was a fantastic, stubborn and curious woman and didn´t let anything stop her! 

She was also one of the few female taxidrivers in Stockholm in the 1950’s, how cool is that!

Linda Branäng, Portfolio Manager

My favourite quotes that represent female empowerment are; “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D. Anderson.

“Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling the world it was crooked”

Juliette Thorpe, Senior Director Commercial

By continuing to challenge gender stereotypes, discrimination and keep speaking up. Remember that it’s ok to take up space and have a voice. Differences should be celebrated, valued and be appreciated.

Harriet Berwick, Senior UK Product Manager

We are incredibly proud and inspired by all the strong, resilient and powerful women working at SilverRail!

To join our great team, check out our latest openings here.