The Department of Transport Victoria plans, builds and operates an integrated, sustainable and safe transport system that’s designed to meet the diverse needs of the state’s people and businesses.
Victoria's public transport network is managed by DoT but delivered by private operators. These operators are contractually bound to deliver high-quality passenger experiences, including the planned and actual delivery of timetabled services.
While planning the largest timetable overhaul in nearly 40 years, DoT called on Telstra to help it move to a more modern and maintainable public cloud-based platform. The goal was to gain internal control over the software and the resulting data that comes from processing these timetables.
Essential updates to improve processes and justify decisions
DoT’s operator timetabling function is critical to its business. Timetables are comprehensive and include key information, such as;
- A master timetable setting out a rough six-month service schedule
- A daily timetable submitted up to seven days in advance, which forms a ’planned’ service delivery that accounts for more detailed knowledge of the daily events that may impact the delivery of the master timetable (e.g. planned maintenance)
- An ‘actual delivery’ timetable that describes exactly what was delivered on the day of the service
Timetables are compared and reported on for the purposes of determining performance of the Department’s operators. Being able to trace and audit this data is crucial, as it ensures DoT can justify any decisions it makes to reward or penalise operators.
This system, while critical, was built on legacy Java-based technology that was more than 20 years old. That made it difficult for DoT to change the underlying code or make improvements to the rules that validated and processed the timetables, forcing time-consuming and inefficient ‘work-arounds’ to get things done.
This made the old system difficult to maintain internally, while also suffering limitations that didn’t allow the Department to present valuable timetable data in a format that could be used widely across the business.
DoT wanted to move to a modern public cloud-based, serverless architecture which would allow it to validate, process and display timetable information received from operators. This would provide more internal control over the software and allow them to better utilise the resulting data.
DoT also wanted to move to an international standards-based model (TransModel) for representing processed timetables and topographic network data.
Building on a partnership
The Department engaged Telstra Purple for its bespoke development capability and close-knit partnership with public cloud leader Amazon Web Services (AWS). Telstra Purple was already successfully managing DoT’s AWS tenancy and was involved in multiple projects linked to AWS platforms within DoT.
After consultation with AWS, Telstra Purple and DoT, the team decided on a short 16-week Proof of Concept (POC) to validate the recommended architecture for a new timetabling platform. The POC was run as an agile project with one-week sprints allowing key stakeholders to give immediate feedback as the application was delivered. Underpinned by strong DevOps principles, value was delivered and assessed frequently.
After assessing the success of the POC, DoT engaged Telstra Purple to take the Rail Operations Performance Project (ROPP) POC into production. The expanded team included developers but also UX design and data analysis. The ROPP was also managed as an agile project.
A new solution that drives tangible business impact
Working closely with AWS and DoT, Telstra Purple delivered the ROPP solution based on event-driven serverless architecture on AWS, backed by .Net Core-based Lambdas and orchestrated by AWS Step Functions.
The new AWS-based system provides DoT with new functionality, reaping the advantages of the public cloud and serverless architecture. The system is faster, more easily scalable, more secure and data is more easily accessible to the entire business.
Telstra Purple’s solution allows DoT to streamline their engagements with private operators, giving them ability to:
Modify business validation rules
- Apply rule sets for varying circumstances
- Modify timetable processing and performance calculations as contracts are re-negotiated
- Share the resulting timetable data in a consistent format across the business
The team employed a modern DevOps-based approach that included a release pipeline hosted in AWS CodePipeline to ensure code quality and future-proof development cycles. This pipeline utilised infrastructure as Code (AWS Cloud Formation) to ensure reliable, repeatable environments could be set up and incrementally maintained.
Positive results and next steps
DoT is very pleased with the outcome of the ROPP project. As there are stringent audit criteria that this project must meet, it will be run in ‘parallel’ with the existing system for a limited period, to ensure outputs match expected results.
The switch from on-premises to cloud has resulted in a substantial monthly cost saving. The reduced cost includes four separate environments, including a development environment, where each developer has an isolated stack that contains all the required development infrastructure.
This new solution and methodology will transform and streamline DoT’s private operator engagements in both the short- and long-term, providing the visibility required to strengthen their business dealings for the future.
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