What’s new – 11th September 2016

Despite the mixed weather over the last fortnight, we’ve been busy (but when are we not?) working on the site and answering emails. This, coupled with some really exciting new developments, means it may take a little longer than usual for us to reply to emails or fix map issues, but sit tight and we’ll definitely be in touch.

We’re getting ready to launch our Railway Systems Consultancy, offering professional services to the railway industry. Drop us a mail at hello@opentraintimes.com if you’re interested in finding out about our design, integration, troubleshooting and bespoke consultancy services.

Back on to this week’s updates. First off, to satisfy the huge number of people who ask for new maps, there are four under development right now:

  • Wembley Freight will cover the numerous freight siding at Wembley on the West Coast Main Line
  • Derby is going to bridge the gap on our Midland Main Line maps, covering the Derby station area and some of the line to Tamworth
  • London Victoria (Southeastern) will add the platforms on the other side of London Victoria and join up with several other maps to give better coverage of Southeastern’s services
  • Westbury extends our coverage of the Berks and Hants line to Westbury and further afield

Each of the maps is hand-drawn and anything from quite simple to ridiculously complex. It takes a number of hours to analyse the data we have available, work out where gaps are, lay out and finally draw the maps. From the feedback we’ve received, we know the maps are hugely popular and a viable alternative to other industry systems. Talk to us if you’re part of the rail industry and would like to engage us commercially to build a customised map of certain routes or stations – we’re happy to help!

This week, we have a whole heap of changes and updates for you:

  • On the North Kent map, we’ve added route indications at Dartford, Sidcup and Lewisham, and over the next weeks we’ll be working on adding more
  • The Norwood Junction map has an additional crossover by TL600 signal at Sydenham, which was missing
  • One of the bridges at Windmill Bridge Junction on the London Victoria to East Croydon map was mis-drawn
  • A number of fixes on the Hildenborough to Ashford International map – one of the platforms at Headcorn was drawn on the wrong side of the track…
  • If you’re using the Merseyrail North Line map, there are now additional ground position light (GPL) signals and route indications
  • The Liverpool Street to Romford map was missing a signal at Liverpool Street, which we’ve added back in
  • Route indications from the Watford Workstation at Wembley Mainline are now on the London Euston to Wembley Central and Wembley Central to Tring maps for the area around Wembley.
  • The North London Line map now has some routes showing on the West London Line, and the soon-to-be-reinstated depot connections at North Pole (plus routes) have been added
  • At Redhill, the track layout has been revised and route indications added
  • There are now route indications at Wivelsfield for the line to Lewes
  • A few minor errors are fixed on the London Bridge map – a berth for signal TL1066 has been added, the ‘train ready to start’ indications on platforms 8 and 9 are now fixed, and some missing signal aspects have been added as well as a route at Cannon Street redrawn which showed when it shouldn’t have done
  • New pointwork at Chislehurst has been added
  • Track occupation indications now appear as a yellow dotted line when the track is occupied, and don’t appear when the track isn’t. These indications are only in a few places on the maps – such as the platforms at Leicester as well as Cannon Street and Charing Cross
  • Route indications around Acton Wells and Bollo Lane Junctions have been fixed, as some were showing incorrectly
  • Substantial rework of the Windsor Lines map has seen signal aspects replaced with route indications, as the indications we receive are routes not signals. This was the cause of many signals never returning to danger after a train passes them
  • Southend Victoria now has route indications around the station area

Phew. Our next release is due in a couple of weeks, and there’s still lots to do. Keep sending in your emails letting us know what you like and what you don’t like – we really love reading them!

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What’s new – 27th August 2016

This weekend, London Cannon Street to London Bridge is recontrolled to a new workstation at Three Bridges ROC. We’ve spent quite some time updating the London Bridge area map ready for these changes, including even more route indications toward the Low Level platforms, and track and route indications around Cannon Street.

We’ve just made this revised map live earlier than planned so you can see the signalling being commissioned, and also because we have a massive number of fixes and enhancements for you this week! Here’s the list:

  • The Hillington West to Gourock and Wemyss Bay map has dozens of new route indications to show where trains have been routed
  • The Cricklewood and Hendon to Acton Wells map now has limited signal and route indications. Some of the signals are semaphore signals rather than colour light signals – we’d planned on animating the semaphores so they showed ‘on’ and ‘off’ correctly, but since there are so few semaphore signals that we have status data for, we decided to spend our time elsewhere
  • Two missing berths on the up lines on the Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley map have been added, so trains will no longer disappear when crossing between signalling centres
  • There are lots of fixes to the Grove Park to Bromley North and Hildenborough map: we’ve fixed the layout at the Marshalling Yard North at Tonbridge, added the MPV depot, AD2063 shunt signal, moved AD117 signal to its correct position, fixed the berth which always shows XXXX at Sevenoaks, removed the ‘Last sent’ berths as they never showed anything, added a route from AD66 in to platform 2 and L322 to Grove Park,
  • Some signals on various maps were stuck on green. We can’t see why this is, so we’ve set them back to danger and we’ll monitor the situation. It’s likely that we’ve suffered from an outage to our feeds from Network Rail at some point and are missing data
  • On maps with data from the IECCs at Ashford, any berth shared between two signals (a dual berth) never displayed any indication. We’ve put separate berths in and fixed this small problem on several of the maps
  • At Selhurst on the London Victoria to East Croydon map, T76 signal was shown in the wrong direction
  • We extended the Ingatestone to Hatfield Peverel map to cover up to the fringe with Colchester PSB, including the Braintree and Sudbury branches from Witham and Marks Tey respectively
  • The Didcot Parkway to Banbury map had a few issues with position light signals, which we’ve fixed
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What’s new – 14th August 2016

It’s been an incredibly busy fortnight. Our new ticketing system for support@opentraintimes.com is proving popular and really helping us keep track of the stack of emails coming in asking for help. It will also let you log in to see the latest updates on any bugs you raise!

We’ve nearly finished the revised London Bridge map, ready for the resignalling work over the August Bank Holiday, and we’re hard at work on some other projects for the rail industry. Over the next couple of months, we’ll start to make our consultancy and technical services available. More about that in another update – you’re anticipating the changes and fixed this week, aren’t you? Here they are!

  • Rail Operations Group trains will now appear in the schedule pages with their real headcodes! In the coming weeks, we’ll be changing the maps so that their services also appear on the maps with their real headcodes
  • We have a brand new map of the Berks & Hants line from Southcote Junction to Heywood Junction (exc.), covering the route through Newbury and Bedwyn down to just before Westbury – which will be coming in a later map
  • On the schedule location pages, the schedule type (WTT, VAR, STP and CAN) buttons didn’t work. This appears to have been due to a code upgrade in the past and wasn’t caught by our testing – but we’ve fixed it so you can filter out the types of schedules you don’t want
  • On the Liverpool Street to Romford map, we’ve added Aldersbrook Sidings near Ilford, changed the map to reflect the plain line past the loop at Romford and removed Mile End Yard, Chadwell Heath and Goodmayes Up sidings
  • The icon for a TOPS 2000-reported departure wasn’t showing the same as the key, so we’ve updated the key to show the correct icon
  • On the Esher to Basingstoke map, some signals near Winchfield were missing, which caused trains to disappear. These are now back on the map
  • The Chilterns map was missing some signals between Aylesbury and Little Kimble, and between Haddenham and Thame Parkway and Princes Risborough, which we’ve added in
  • Trains weren’t showing up in platform 15 on the Edinburgh map, so we’ve fixed this so that trains actually do show up
  • On the revamped Oxford map, signal ME364 was missing, which we’ve added in
  • Two signals were positioned on the wrong lines on the Leyland to Lancaster map, which we’ve corrected

Until next time, enjoy the site!

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What’s new – 31st July 2016

The last time I looked, it was a week ago. Where has the week gone?

First off, we had three problem this week. Although the public-facing site is free to use, we operate the site professionally. Part of that involves being transparent and honest, especially when things go wrong. So, what went wrong?

  • The outage on Tuesday 26th July was caused by scheduled maintenance to increase capacity which shouldn’t have affected the site. However, due to the volume of messages we receive during the evening rush hour, we didn’t have enough spare capacity to cope. We lost several minutes worth of messages which were held within one of the systems we took down, and these weren’t replicated on to the second system. The site appeared to have suffered an outage, with trains appearing in the wrong position
  • The outage on Wednesday 27th July was caused by more scheduled maintenance and a problem with some database commands. Rather than deleting all old schedules prior to 6th July, it deleted all schedules prior to 6th August, which was everything. As a result, we had to rebuild our timetable database from a backup. We took the decision not to restore the full backup as it would take too long, and we wanted to get the site back up and running quickly
  • The outage on the Thursday 28th July was related to the outage the previous evening. One of the database queries that runs to create trains runs very slowly under some circumstances, taking up to 4 seconds to find data rather than about 4 milliseconds. As a result, every message we received took far longer to process and eventually one of the processes on the server failed. We didn’t notice until the next morning as our automated monitoring doesn’t currently check for this specific scenario. However, when we found out what had happened, we restarted services, found the issue and put in a tactical fix to get the site up and running. We lost about 9 hours worth of real-time data

So that we’re not hit by these problems in the future, we’re fine-tuning how we operate the site. Nobody likes outages!

That’s the bad news dealt with – on to the good news! What’s new on the site this week?

  • The Banbury area is being resignalled, and we’ve updated the Didcot Parkway to Banbury map to include the renumbered platforms at Oxford, the new line toward Oxford Parkway (moved from the Chilterns map) and extended the map further toward Leamington Spa. As the new signalling is commissioned, you’ll be able to see signals light up on the map
  • When clicking on a location in a schedule for a train which has run, the location link is supposed to take you to the location at the time the train was booked. However, it was taking you to the time in GMT, not local time – so we’ve fixed it to return the right time
  • The Grove Park to Bromley North and Hildenborough map now includes route indications all the way to Orpington, which we’ll be extending in the coming weeks. Due to data limitations, we can’t tell which sets of points some routes use, so there may be a green signal but no route set where there are alternate routes
  • On the East London Line map, the crossover between platforms 2 and 3 at Dalston Junction was mis-positioned, causing conflicting routes to appear to be set. This has now been moved so it’s possible to make a move from signal 206 to platform 3 at the same time as a train moves from signal 203 to signal 211
  • On the Esher to Basingstoke map, a route from signal 132 was mis-drawn, which has now been fixed
  • On the Exeter to Liskeard map, the inter-map links weren’t working, which we’ve tidied up

Until next time, enjoy the new Banbury map and the rest of the fixes!

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What’s new – 24th July 2016

Fresh back from a day in Brighton, we’ve managed to finish the latest release of OpenTrainTimes! There are four important things to note this week:

First, GB Railfreight services now appear in the timetable pages with headcodes – no more FRGT! They’ve been appearing in the real-time maps for months now, but I’ve finally put the schedules in the clear. It’s possible we can make other operators’ services appear with headcodes too – if you work a freight or engineering train operator and want your trains to be shown in the clear, send us an email and we’ll set the ball rolling.

Secondly, the 3Squared Mobile Consist Application was launched a few weeks ago, which offers huge advantages to preparing train consists over direct input to TOPS. We now show trains which have been ‘departed’ via the MCA on the schedule pages. Check the key at the bottom of the page for which icon is which.

Third, we have new map covering the gap between Forest Hill and East Croydon maps. Everyone, meet Forest Hill to the East Croydon approaches, plus Crystal Palace! This includes part of Selhurst Depot, at least the bits which report movements to Network Rail’s train describers.

Finally, we’ve battled Javascript and made the links between maps zoom to the appropriate place on the map. So, if you’re tracking a train moving from right to left on one map, when you load the next map, it’ll be positioned appropriately at the right hand side of that map so you’re right where you need to be. Try it out!

As usual, there are always a number of bugs and enhancements, so thanks again to everyone for sending them in. Here’s the list of smaller things:

So, until next time – enjoy the maps!

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What’s new – 3rd July 2016

Say hello to our Leyland to Lancaster map, including Preston – by popular demand – which was thrown together in a few spare hours this week, along with these little fixes to existing maps:

  • On the Slough map, the platform at Burnham has been re-positioned in to the correct loctaion
  • On the Epsom map, the platform at Hinchley Wood has also been re-positioned in to the correct location
  • The Esher to Basingstoke map now has route indications for the Woking area so you can see which platform trains will be routed toward before it happens
  • Technical issues with the York map mean that the signal aspects were sometimes not updating for a long period of time. This turns out to be an issue in the signalling centre completely outside our control – so the incorrect indications are removed from the map so we don’t show you knowingly incorrect information. Also, a missing crossover has been put in north of the station
  • On the Grove Park to Bromley North and Hildenborough map, some signals which share a berth with another signal (configured as ‘dual berths’ on the train describer) were never showing any trains. This has been fixed for Orpington, and we’ll be fixing the other maps from Ashford IECC ‘A’ soon

Now for a few facts. The new map of Lancaster is our 81st, all of which have been drawn by hand from scratch – every single one. There’s no magic system that can replace a human’s judgement on how to lay out a map and make it look clean and tidy. We’ve also got over 24,000 different signalling elements displayed on the maps – signals, routes, track circuits and ‘Train Ready to Start’ indicators.

Each month, we see about 35,000 unique users on the site, and most days there well over 200 simultaneous map users – everyone from Network Rail staff to train and freight operators, commuters, leisure travellers and enthusiasts. I don’t have statistics for the number of unique map users per day, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t well upwards of a few thousand.

Until next time – probably in a few weeks – enjoy the new maps and please, please keep your emails pouring in!

// Peter

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What’s new – 26th June 2016

It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. This week has been really productive!

There are also a handful of bug fixes:

Phew – that’s a really busy week! Time to relax in front of Netflix…

// Peter

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What’s new – 19th June 2016

This week has been busy. Really busy. Still, the light evenings make all the difference and have helped the brand new map of Edinburgh Waverley to get finished! I had intended to extend the map further east to include Craigentinny Depot, but I’m out of time for this week and I’d rather get the map of the station up and live.

There are a number of smaller issues fixed in this release too:

  • On the East London Line map, routes from signals EL213 and EL215 were being displayed. I’m not sure why this happened, so I’ve manually set both routes to ‘clear’
  • On the London Paddington map, ground position light signal SN6004 – possibly the signal reported to have been passed at red by the BBC, was mysteriously hidden. Also, a missing crossover west of SN107 and SN105 signals has been put back in place to allow moves from SN109 to the Down Main
  • On the Wrawby Junction to Barton on Humber, Immingham and Cleethorpes map, trains were reported to disappear at New Clee, which was due to a problem with some berth labelling. Additionally, some signals on the BRS1 and BRS2 labelled lines were missing and have now been re-added
  • On the London Waterloo to Clapham Junction map, signals 1041, 1047, 1049, 1070, 1062 and 1060 were showing XXXX rather than train descriptions, which was due to the signal element being labelled the same as the berth and the latter never being updated
  • On the Sheffield map, some signals were mis-positioned south of Chesterfield resulting in trains from Alfreton disappearing. Additionally, the Train Ready To Start (TRTS) indications always showed on, and signal 143 always showed a blank aspect. All three of these are fixed

Until next time, please keep sending in your feedback and I’ll do my best to get everything fixed!

// Peter

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Summer 2016 Update

It’s been six weeks since the last release. Six weeks is a long time on the railway – rather than keep quiet about what’s happening, I thought it better to write a blog post.

I’m coming to the end of an intensely busy period of work in my day-job. I’m working with a company that’s delivering a really exciting and innovative product to the freight industry. I can’t say much about it, other than the last few months have been a real hard slog!

I am also working on lots of enhancements and features for the site, starting with updating the site’s architecture to use some of the latest technology available. Some of these changes won’t be visible, but they will be the enabler for new and exciting things.

“So what? Where are the new maps?!” you cry. They’re coming. I started work on Edinburgh a couple of months ago and the layout is as complicated as Birmingham New Street. Edinburgh’s nearly ready to go – the station layout’s in place, and I’m busy extending it both East and West at the moment. All being well, Auld Reekie will be live next week.

To everyone who’s still waiting for a reply to emails you’ve sent me – they are in a big, big list that I simply haven’t had time to look at properly yet. But, nothing gets deleted, so please sit tight, especially if you’ve reported bugs or issues.

And finally, sorry to those of you affected by some problems on the site over the last week or two where you will have seen “Failed to connect to map server” errors. These were caused by part of the site that isn’t monitored (yet) slowly filling up with old data. The site is now operating with sufficient headroom to cater for the ever-growing number of visitors to the site!

Until next time,

// Peter

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What’s new – 1st May 2016

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the pace of change on the railway. This week is no exception – we have two major pieces of signalling work going on, and we’ve been hard at work all week updating our maps.

First off, the London Victoria to East Croydon (exc.) map has been updated to include data from the new control system at Three Bridges ROC. This WestCAD fringes with Three Bridges ASC between Norbury and Thornton Heath, and Victoria ASC between Balham and Streatham Common. It’s the first of several stages to move control from the panels at Victoria ASC to the ROC at Three Bridges.

Second, and no less importantly, the Wingfield Tunnel to Meadowhall map has been updated to reflect Sheffield PSB’s closure. Control moves to two workstations in the York ROC covering the Sheffield and Rotherham areas.

Since redrawing and updating these maps has taken a lot longer than anticipated, there are still some bugs which are waiting to be fixed. They will be fixed during this week, with another minor update being released next Sunday.

Until next time, enjoy the new maps!

// Peter

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