Despite the slowdown in trains, the Trainline technical team has made every effort to maintain momentum over the past two years.
Public transport has been hit hard by the pandemic: in 2020, train travel fell to just 22% from pre-COVID-19 levels. But with this crisis now largely in the back mirror, Trainline’s digital ticketing platform is accelerating again.
“Now we are seeing a very, very good recovery, and people are returning to the trains,” said new technical director Milena Nikolic, who joined the company last year.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity, and everything we see is very encouraging in that sense. During this period, the market is recovering, but people are also changing their habits. [towards work]and it’s for the best for everyone: better for the rail industry and our train partners, better for us and ultimately better for the planet. “
Despite a two-year slowdown in train use, Trainline never lost momentum, even as its traffic became much more rapid – sharply increasing and decreasing as the rules changed. Even in the worst pandemic, the company has retained its significant technical team of more than 400 people of various specializations
Now that the use of trains is constantly growing again, the company’s new products developed over the past two years, such as tickets, are undergoing stress testing in an ever-increasing.
“For us as a technical team, it was really interesting. It took some work to make sure that at any given time they were well provided for and capable of such scale and growth, especially in the morning rush hour when many people buy their train tickets. We are now in a very good position to cope with both the current scale and the growth over the next year. “
That’s not to say Trainline hasn’t changed its technical team over the past two years. When Nikolic joined, she worked with new employee Mike Hyde – chief of staff at Trainline – to review how the technical organization works and make sure the company’s technical investments are in line with a broader business strategy.
“I really see software development as a team sport, and if you do not make a team more than the amount of its parts and really do not make sure that it works as a team rather than just a set of individual engineers, you will never get the maximum return on investment, which you invest in people.
“I think the biggest [change we made] was the target operating model. So effectively we have changed the way we work in technology to structure our teams around the concept of horizontal and vertical, where horizontal is the platform team that owns our technology stack and they work to incorporate different verticals – the main kind of working verticals, end-to-end end for moving specific business indicators or for providing very cross-cutting aspects of the customer experience.
“I really believe in this model, I think it creates empowered dynamic teams that really understand their mission. They understand what they’re trying to do for business, and they have the power to contribute from the end to the end. minimal outflows and processes to be able to really achieve results ”.
So far, the teams have reported excellent results, praising their new opportunities. As a side advantage, Nikolic says the presence of a strong platform team has also made it possible to focus on the basic technical functional and non-functional requirements related to the scale, delay, technique, performance and reliability of the system.
To further motivate team members, Trainline has taken a “flexi-first” approach. Not surprisingly, in 2022, this is a hybrid approach where people can set their own working days.
“Different companies chose different models, and it was hard to figure out what to do right – we experimented a bit to make sure we chose the right option in the future … We don’t ask people to come for a certain number of days or anything like that . We leave it to individual teams and managers to work out the right office schedule. We have people in groups who come three to five days a week; equally, we have people in teams that come smaller, and that will depend on how well the team is put together ”.
While Nikolic “loves” Trainline’s Holborn offices and admits it’s hard to replicate the level of collaboration available face-to-face, she says the entire executive team was “very impressed” with how well the company and its employees worked throughout Covid.
“They’ve adapted very well to it; they’ve found ways to stay very efficient and collaborate. We just wanted to maintain that flexibility as well as benefit from real contacts in the office; that’s why it’s flexibility in the first place.”
The UK rail system may be slowly returning to normal, but the technical side of Trainline has refused to stand still for the past two years. The infrastructure is fully operational on AWS and intense on microservices, and Nikolic says her teams almost have to work to keep up with the pace of change in technology.
It didn’t bother anyone. In fact, Trainline is exploring infrastructure as code, as well as new opportunities to use AI and machine learning to continue to build robust, scalable systems. Given their past successes, the technical team has the green light to keep moving – and shows no signs of slowing down.