Success born from passion
In addition to being the market leading specialist service company in the Netherlands, Railtech is also contributing significantly to the modernisation and electrification of the country’s rail network
Utilising a dense track network, and managed and maintained by the public task company ProRail, the rail industry in the Netherlands connects almost every major town and city in the country. Totalling approximately 6830 kilometres of track, three quarters of which has been electrified, there are as many train stations present as there are municipalities, with the network predominantly supporting passenger transportation.
Figures from 2015 show that there were approximately 320 million rail journeys taken in the Netherlands. With the network in such demand it rests not only with ProRail, but with specialist service companies to keep the industry running at its peak throughout the year. One such company is Railtech.
“The company was founded in 2000 by myself and my business partner, Joop Wagenaar, with our aim being to service the rail industry,” states owner and Director of Railtech, Dick van Harten. “Prior to 2000, neither of us had any significant experience of workingwithin the market. Despite this fact, the two of us spent the first months of the company’s existence acquiring various materials used in signalling equipment, sleepers, rail switches and other products that we would then supply to customers, either as individual parts or after assembling them prior to use. It did not take us long to identify a specific need for expertise in delivering overhead conductor line systems and components. By focusing on this area, Joop and I were able to take what was a startup company that began life in Joop’s kitchen and build it up to what it is today.”
Railtech soon gained a reputation as a young, hungry and dynamic company, one that placed every effort into satisfying the needs of its customers. “Our commitment to our customers and their requirements quickly earned positive feedback, and that has helped us to grow in the time since,” Dick continues. “Today we are the market leading trading and services company in the Netherlands serving all the major rail transportation companies.”
In recent years, the rail network in the Netherlands has undergone a steady transformation with many of the older lines that historically supported diesel trains becoming electrified. “The modernisation of the network has resulted in the company taking on an increased number of projects,” explains fellow Director, Kees van der Schaaf. “In addition to delivering around 80 kilometres of electrification works within the area in and around Zwolle, we have also carried out much of the supply of equipment and products during the extension of lightrail systems in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.”
The very nature of keeping a major transportation system operational, and the sometimes-critical need to get supplies on site, has required Railtech to amass a vast inventory of products. In addition to being able to gain instant access to said stock, the company also aims to obtain a thorough understanding of its customers’ project needs and requirements. This personal approach is not only designed to provide cost and efficiency savings across the life of said project, but to create a lasting relationship with the customer that is defined by its successful completion.
Following more than a decade of consistent growth, in 2014 the Railtech family suffered the devastating loss of one of its founding members when Joop sadly lost his brave battle with cancer. What could have been a hugely destabilising event for the business was mitigated as a result of the foresight of Joop and Dick, who set about laying the groundwork for Kees to come on-board.
“I have to give Kees a lot of praise as it must have been a difficult experience joining the company in those circumstances,” Dick recalls. “It was clearly a very challenging time for us all as we embarked on finding a new balance for Railtech, one which we could place upon the solid foundations we had established and build out from. As a result of everyone’s hard work and commitment we are achieving this aim, which is reflected in our rising yearly turnover.”
Now recognised as the market leader in the field of rail electrification projects in the Netherlands, it would be easy for Railtech to rest on its laurels, but, as Dick reaffirms, this is far from the case. “What we want to do is be better. The analogy I like to use is that of a good football player who wants to be the best. To achieve this, he needs to work through his training, identifying his weaknesses and improving upon these. That is what we are currently doing on a daily basis as we aim to not just be one step ahead of our competitors, but two steps or even three.”
“Railtech’s success all stems from passion,” Kees concludes. “If you look at the company, from top to bottom you will see men and women who are all passionate about what they are doing. This is a big priority for Railtech and we look to foster an environment where our people have a passion for working as part of a team, and a passion for collective improvement. Our employees have access to a number of training programmes, both personal and technical, and we actively encourage them to come up with ideas for making the company better, providing them the opportunities to try and implement positive change. Railtech is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, but we have a team already looking at how we can make a smooth move up to a higher standard. This is just one of the many ways that we are looking to harness the passion of our people to create lasting success.”