Lineas, the Largest Private Rail Freight Operator in Europe, Digitally Transforms With Low-Code

Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe, is working with OutSystems partner Truewind to deliver “Golden Triangle.” This ambitious digital transformation program—based on a composable application development strategy powered by OutSystems—will provide frictionless customer experiences for pan-European, door-to-door freight services. By encouraging more customers to switch from road haulage to train freight, Lineas supports the EU’s climate neutrality goals while reducing road congestion and improving mobility.

Challenge : Accelerate Innovation in a Traditionally Slow-to-Change Industry

The rail industry is not usually a hotbed of innovation. Most operators are either state-owned or quite recently spun out from public ownership. The very nature of heavy engineering, slow-to-evolve infrastructure, and necessary safety regulations add further inertia to change.


“Modal shift from road to rail depends on slick digital systems, which is why OutSystems is at the heart of our composable development strategy. With the expert support of Truewind, we’re delivering frictionless customer experiences that overlay a complex business proposition—pan-European door-to-door freight delivery with real-time track and trace.”

– Mark Geuens, Chief Information Officer 

Lineas, Europe’s largest private rail freight operator, shares this public sector heredity. In 2010 the company was 100 percent owned by Belgium’s national railway company and then spun out with private equity investment in 2011, rebranding as Lineas in 2017.

The company’s rebranding signifies the enlarged mission to provide rail freight services across Europe, which, as CIO Mark Geuens explains, is challenging.

So-called “modal shift” allows companies to improve their supply chain while decreasing their impact on mobility, climate, and air pollution. European Union legislation and increasing ESG pressure from shareholders make this a top priority for businesses.

However, delivering a frictionless customer experience is extremely hard from an IT perspective. “We were dragging a complex legacy behind us,” explains Mark. “We had rigid systems from our state ownership days and a mix of technologies following several acquisitions. Moreover, door-to-door logistics involves multiple parties. Lineas does the long haul, but partners deliver the first and last miles between railyard and customer.”

The lack of standards and digital maturity of national rail infrastructure providers adds to the complexity; making it hard to obtain real-time track-and-trace data to build customer trust and optimize operational efficiency.

Mark Geuens joined Lineas as CIO in 2018 with the mission to overcome these challenges.

Why did Lineas choose OutSystems?

  1. Speed up Development and Improve Agility
  2. Deliver Web & Mobile Applications
  3. Enable Continuous Delivery

Solution : From Small Beginnings to Strategic Development Platform

Lineas first adopted OutSystems in 2016, but its use had been limited to mobile field service application development. Mark realized that OutSystems could be used more strategically than this and challenged his development team to re-evaluate where and when they should use OutSystems.

“They had permission to throw OutSystems out so long as they could justify that from a productivity perspective,” says Mark. “But on the contrary, the developers saw many advantages to building on OutSystems, and it put an end to some of the religious wars you sometimes get when developers favor different languages and frameworks.”

“We implemented Kafka as a data fabric, making it easy to connect numerous data sources in a consistent and agile sublayer,” explains Tom Thijs, Enterprise Architect at Lineas. “Now we can connect to legacy systems, packaged applications, IoT data sources, and information across our partner ecosystems to publish that data in role-specific collections.”

Using OutSystems, Lineas developed three “Control Towers,” for significant aspects of the Lineas business. These three entities are:

  • Customer Care Control Tower provides the data and processes needed by customer service agents and the customer self-service portal, including track and trace and proactive notifications.
  • Supply Chain Control Tower provides the ability to plan and monitor logistics across Lineas’ multi-partner ecosystems.
  • Product and Network Control Tower includes the granular master data of Lineas’ locations, products, and services needed for detailed planning and pricing.

“Our Golden Triangle digital transformation program involves the integration of these three control towers,” explains Mark. “Together, they enable us to orchestrate our entire operation across our partner ecosystem, to provide convenient, transparent, and reliable freight services that decarbonize European logistics.”

The blended delivery team includes a dedicated Truewind squad comprising a program manager, a tech lead, four developers, a UX/UI expert, and a tester.

Results : Modal Shift to Double European Rail Freight by 2030

All three control towers are in production. However, in late 2022, the Golden Triangle program will launch a new end-to-end transport management system. This will combine the customer care and supply chain control towers to provide new levels of convenience and collaboration between Lineas, customers, and supply chain partners.

“Providing a frictionless customer experience is central to achieving modal shift,” explains Mark. “Convenience, reliability, and value for money will persuade more customers to shift freight transport from road to rail.”

Lineas, along with a coalition of European rail freight operators, has the ambition of doubling rail freight volume by 2030. Given the economic and environmental case, it’s vital that they succeed.

Today, 75 percent of European freight travels by road. Every year each driver spends 120 hours in traffic jams, and around 50,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution and road accidents.

The market expects overall freight volume to grow 30 percent by 2030, and the benefits of rail freight are undeniable. It emits nine times less CO2, eight times less air pollution, and burns six times less energy.

“Our golden triangle program will deliver full transparency of consignments, including ETAs, deviation management, full track and trace, and proactive notifications,” explains Mark. “Delivering trust and convenience to customers underpins modal shift.”

Looking at the internal benefits to Lineas, Mark says, “We’ll have end-to-end control of deliveries across the partner ecosystem. Realtime trusted data will help us optimize the use of our resources, including trains, wagons, railyards, and personnel.”

Case Study Credit : OutSystems

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