Pair Programming

Software development – GeluidRegister 2 is on track (10/50)

A very pleased project leader, a major challenge that was quickly solved (much to the surprise of the client), and a proud senior M+P consultant.  What we are talking about here is the ProRail project, which was started in 2020 to develop a new software application in collaboration with ICT partners InTraffic, Tensing and Ordina. Ard Kuijpers enthusiastically explains “GeluidRegister 2”, a system that will manage the noise capacity of the entire Dutch railway network.

Collaboration with ProRail

In 2009, when Ard was seconded at ProRail, they were already working on a system that would unify all the data concerning noise barriers, train types, speeds, platforms, etc. into one calculation model. “ProRail had developed its own software to calculate the noise production,” says Ard. “At the time, M+P did not have the right certifications to tender for the assignment, but we were allowed to contribute ideas and carry out tests. And because, every year, ProRail must demonstrate that the noise levels it generates do not exceed the ceiling value – due to changing timetables, other trains being used, new routes, etc. – we were given the assignment to make this calculation model every year.”

Virtual Acoustic Advisor

It was a huge job to manually process all the data. “You don’t want that, especially if it’s possible to automate it,” Ard thought. “In 2011, we had virtually recreated the complete Dutch railway model. We had about 60,000 reference points, 40,000 pieces of track, a few thousand noise barriers, platforms, canopies and bridges. This model was a digital version of reality: a “Digital Twin” that could always be easily adapted. And the software we unleashed into this digital world meant a Virtual Acoustic Advisor, a VAA, was created.”

Calculation for GeluidRegister 2

ProRail made plans to replace the outdated technology at the end of 2019, and when M+P were asked to take care of the calculation part, we had already built up a lot of experience with the VAA. The collaboration, led by InTraffic with a number of other partners, for GeluidRegister 2 started in the summer of 2020. “As far as ProRail was concerned, the specialist calculations, our part of the project, held the greatest risk for something to go wrong,” Ard continues. “But we had a good plan and, to the surprise of a satisfied project manager, we were the first to finish. Over three to four months, working with Erik van Gils and Bert Peeters, I built a new calculation module from the ground up. And because we were ready on time and know the user-side well, we were also able to take care of much of the user interface development later in the project.”

Pair Programming and good communication

“Programming is a creative process, and good communication should not be underestimated. In addition to being programmers, we are of course also sound specialists who can easily empathise with the customer’s need for ease of use. In fact, thinking about what could most help the customer is a fun game. The “Pair Programming” method is ideal for this; one sits behind the keyboard and the other watches, checks and thinks ahead. And if you work together with three colleagues in alternating teams, you get even more out of each other. The best of both (three) worlds!”

Never lose curiosity

Ard likes to explain things. He even toyed with the idea of teaching after his studies. It never got to that point, but he still tries to get others interested in what he does, as well as to keep learning himself. “I don’t want to lose that curiosity. I love five year projects, I really need variety. The fact that I am still working at M+P after 23 years is because I always had interesting new projects: challenging and with enormous freedom for initiative. A permanent challenge is to combine my work as a senior consultant with that of director. You don’t find this freedom in most places, but I immediately felt it when I arrived at M+P.”