Fyra is the brand name of the high-speed train service, operating on the Dutch HSL-Zuid and the Belgian HSL 4, operating between Amsterdam and Brussels (taking only 2 hours).
Fyra shares the high-speed tracks with the operator Thalys. The service is offered by NMBS/SNCB, the Belgian side of co-operation and NS Hispeed, the Dutch side (source and more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyra). In fact, this service is the replacement of the 55-year old “Amsterdammer” (aka: Benelux-train) which did the trip in 3 hours.
The maiden voyage of Fyra took place on 9 December 2012 at exactly 7:41 am and went flawlessly. Everything looked promising but by the end of day, the service had to deal with a delay of 45 minutes. The next few days (during the full roll out), it became a disaster. Newspapers reported almost continuous delays and cancellations of the service. During the following days, the responsibles of both companies, even the Belgian and Dutch parliaments, were preoccupied with this matter. In the end, the passengers were the victims of all these inconveniences. In some cases they were forced to use other means of transport and even some of them passed the night in a hotel as they couldn’t get home.
Whether you operate in an (ICT) infrastructural or other type of project, alignment between all involved parties is crucial for a successful delivery of your product and related services. In this particular matter: building trains, putting them on the tracks, composing schedules and making a maiden voyage, was apparently insufficient to guarantee a succesful roll-out.
Moreover disputing about whom’s responsibality it was (Belgian or Dutch railways) is not recommended in case of emergency.
Even after the go-live, keeping open communication lines is a must as it enables a quick response to issues.
Besides the impact on the image of the train companies, there was also an economical downside. People complained and asked for refunding, employees were too late in the office. Some customers who already ordered a ticket, may consider to cancel their train journey because of the “publicity” it got.
This brings us to the famous curve of Boehm which explains the increasing cost of detecting issues the further we are in the project.
In our experiences, the shortest way to
to get out of such a situation is bringing all involved parties together based on following principles:
- Make a detailed analysis of what’s going wrong
- Re-execute the tests while each of the participants monitors their “piece of the puzzle”.
- Try to create an open atmosphere were there is no fear for admitting mistakes.
- At the end of each troubleshoot session defines action points with deadlines and make an appointment for the next session (if needed).