A NORTH-EAST “no code, drag and drop” app developer has partnered with Network Rail to help achieve its goal of going paperless.

Nutshell supports the sector’s digital transformation goals with no-code app development that allows businesses to drag and drop features into a purpose-built platform.

Product Director Alex Nichol says the firm’s “democratiiation of the development process” is a client’s “dream come true” as it makes app building more efficient and affordable.

Planning for Delivery, or P4D, is a safety improvement programme launched by Network Rail to avoid near misses, close calls, accidents, and fatalities on the railway.

Its introduction will affect every company that provides operational services to the rail sector, roughly 600 companies with 45,000 workers, and moves all paper-based processes like briefings and plans to digital forms and apps.

The Northern Echo:

Martyn Cuthbert, founder of Nutshell Software, said “This is as much about operational efficiencies as it is about sustainability and doing their bit for the environment.

“Adding extra capacity to the network to meet the growing passenger numbers means thinking smart. Digital rail is not just about a switch from analogue to digital signalling systems but also a journey that starts at the coal face. Equipping their workforce with modern technology to improve the way they maintain and manage the infrastructure will not only help to create more train paths, but save lives at the same time.

“Mobility is a major part of this digital transformation and giving the industry a way to create mobile apps at a fraction of the price of current expensive native apps, means that everyone in the supply chain can become part of the same ecosystem oppose to just those that have deep pockets.

“In addition to the usual financial pressures, I think we can all see that the government is going to have a lot less money to spend on public services and infrastructure as a result Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean that passenger expectations will reduce in the same way.

The Northern Echo:

“Customers will want to to see continued improvements to the services with more availability, trains running on time, cheaper tickets and so on – so the industry must start to innovate to meet the needs of a 21st century railway.”

Nutshell has been used by Network Rail to build more than 85 apps over the past 12 months, at fraction of the price the rail firm paid for 12 native apps over a five-year period.

Mr Nichol said: "We allowing project managers, business analysts and engineers to solve their own digital transformation problems quickly and easily, without having to rely on a team of programmers. To our clients, this is a dream come true."

Mr Cuthbert added: “We created the concept of zero code or citizen development and having a technology agnostic builder platform after experiencing the same frustrations as our customers – having to build and maintain multiple versions of the same apps on IOS, Android, Windows and the ridiculously high costs involved in this.

“Our goal is to do the same with mobile apps that Wordpress did for DIY websites 17 years ago – disrupt a market place. It certainly doesn’t mean that because it’s not the normal way of doing things that it isn’t right. Apple proved that with the iPod and smart phone. We are confident that we will do the same with mobile apps.”

Nutshell partnered with OnTrac, a software solution partner to the rail industry, to create P4D for Network Rail.