RDG (Rail Delivery Group)

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) brings together the Train Operating Companies (TOC) that run Britain’s railway into a single team with one goal – to deliver a better railway. Since the go-live of the first phase of the RARS-2 project, Sqills’ S3 Passenger platform covers all reservable train services across the country.

The RDG organises its activity into four core portfolios: customer experience; today’s railway; industry reform; and tomorrow’s railway. The transformative nature of S3 Passenger can power a shift in all four core areas. With the launch of the S3 Passenger platform in the UK, amongst other benefits, operators will spend far less time on time-consuming operations tasks as these are largely automated by S3 passenger core functionality.

A smooth migration to S3 Passenger

RDG initiated a project to replace their 15-year-old inventory system, NRS, a few years ago. A few of the primary motivators were that the system could not handle the increased traffic and was expensive to maintain. The project was called RARS and subsequently halted.

A new project was started in 2019 with the name RARS2, a name that served to remind everyone about the lessons learned from the previous project. RDG opted fora SaaS solution instead of a bespoke option to manage risks and make the most of the available budget.

A challenging project

The RDG implementation has certainly been a challenging project. Not only because UK train operators serve long networks with many stops, but there are also two operators that serve sleeper services. This is a first for an S3 passenger implementation. The RARS2 project was very complex for several different reasons:

  • Although RARS2 offers a single interface for all reserved trains in the UK, the 20 Train Operating Companies (TOC’s) who manage the inventory of the trains are competitors within their respective market. Each TOC has a different commercial strategy and uses different revenue management systems. Sqills delivered a S3 Passenger instance for every TOC and a distribution S3 Passenger instance for RDG. This distribution S3 Passenger instance acts as a single interface to the distribution parties.
  • The size of UK rail measured in the number of train services per day, the number of search requests, and the number of bookings exceeded existing S3 Passenger customers. The scalability of S3 Passenger proved its value and Sqills presented a performance test that met the criteria of RDG (400 requests per second).
  • RDG preferred to migrate without a big bang. Sqills delivered a solution capable of managing both “old” and “new” traffic to hide the impact of the migration from the distribution partners. Train by train, date by date, operator by operator, RDG was in complete control of the migration. The first train was migrated in September 2020 and the last one did so in March 2021.
  • The most important phases of the project were completed while working from home (including the deployment of the production system). This was the first go-live of S3 Passenger that is fully managed remotely.

Ongoing innovation

The migration to S3 Passenger is complete, but RDG has more plans to unlock the potential business value of S3 Passenger. During the NRS migration, all traffic to S3 Passenger is based on the old NRS API to minimise the impact on the distribution partners.

RDG has started a new project to use the native S3 Passenger API. This project will have a tremendous impact on the distribution landscape and both options will be supported going forward. The first traffic on production using the native S3 API is expected end of 2021.

At maturity, S3 Passenger will be processing over 100 million passenger segments annually for the RDG.