October 2020 Update

We’re a couple of weeks behind on getting our October update tested and live, but when you see the updated Euston to Wembley Central map, you’ll understand why it’s taken so long!

Network Rail have enabled signal aspect and route setting data for the rest of Wembley Mainline SCC. That’s both the Willesden Surburban WestCAD, controlling the “DC Lines” from Watford Junction to Camden Junction, and some of the signalling for Wembley Yard. The WestCAD workstation controlling Wembley Central to Kings Langley and St Albans Abbey was already outputting this data, and we’ve had this since early 2015.

That’s the big one – we’ve also extended the Guildford map to Aldershot South Junction and made some fixes to the Wakefield Kirkgate map. We’ve also added the St Albans Abbey branch line to our Wembley to Tring map. This will show train movements in the near future.

In case you missed it, we’ve also been busy working on a data-driven approach to train maintenance, and we blogged about it a week or two ago. Taking on work such as this helps us keep the public site free.

Until next time, keep safe and wear a mask!

Improving train maintenance with real-time data

We’ve been busy over the last six months, working closely with Iotics and Rolls-Royce Power Systems (RRPS) on a project to help improve the reliability of Class 80x trains.

A 5-car Class 800 train, named Queen Victoria, in Great Western Railway livery passing through Kentish Town West ation
Rsa, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Rolling stock needs regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Many faults are not urgent and can wait until the stock next undergoes maintenance. But some faults are a priority and need fixing within a day or two, otherwise the stock may be unable to enter service the next day or, worse, fail in service and cause delays. Both of these cause disruption to the railway, negatively impacting the customer experience.

Control teams are experienced at juggling available train crew and rolling stock to keep the planned service running, but what happens when rolling stock deviates from its diagram, and that stock needs equipment swapped at a particular depot overnight? Trains can end up at the wrong depot, or enter in reverse formation, causing operational problems and risking cancellations the next day.

To solve this problem, we combined our deep knowledge of railway operations and real-time data analysis with Iotics Digital Twin ecosystem, Iotic Space, which lets us securely access a ‘twin’ of sensor data on each Class 80x train. When we detect that a train will no longer end its day at the right depot at the right time, we send an exception message through Iotic Space which alerts the Central Planning Cell and updates a Depot Dashboard in good time for staff to make a decision on what to do.

Our technology isn’t limited to the Class 80x fleet, and we’re able to roll it out to other operators’ fleets without many changes.

To see how we can help improve the reliability of your rolling stock, contact Sophie Peachey at Iotics. To talk about how we can help your operations using real-time data, contact Peter Hicks at OpenTrainTimes.

September 2020 Update

Well, that was a summer and a half. Several months not travelling anywhere by train, plenty of cycling and some really hot weeks. The founder of the site, Peter Hicks, recorded a video with Geoff Marshall about the site – warning: it includes a very lovely Italian Greyhound. Go check out out.

Since our last big update in April, we’ve made numerous updates to the site. But first, September’s update. We proudly unveil a new map covering Wakefield Kirkgate to Castleford, Knottingley and Hensall. It covers Drax and Eggborough Power Stations, Knottingley, Castleford and Hunslet and Stourton freight terminals near Leeds.

We also released another new map of Salford (Manchester), covering the boundary with Rochdale and Stalybridge, Manchester Victoria, Salford and the two routes to Crow Nest Junction and Warrington Central.

In due course, we’ll extend other maps to link up with these.

As for the minor updates, we’ve added some signals, additional route indications and fixed some smaller bugs. This takes a lot of time – all our maps are are drawn by hand. Whilst this takes time, we’re frequently told they are more complete and look better than other sites offering the same service. If you’re one of the people who’ve been in touch to say that – thank you, we really appreciate the feedback.

Work continues on a new version of the site. We’re involved in a number of industry projects which are helping to build new components. We’re also working with the Emergent Alliance on the post-COVID-19 recovery of the rail industry, and hopefully there will be some data off the back of that which we can share.

Finally, several people have asked why we don’t show train formations, as some other sites do. The simple answer is that the data isn’t open, and we don’t want to work on a way of getting it for just us. Why shouldn’t everyone benefit? Watch this space though.

There will be more regular updates over the next few months, and more maps. In the meantime, watch this space, follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you’re up-to-date with what we’re doing.

April 2020 Update

Just in time for the end of the month, and we’re back with the updates that have taken place on the site over the past few weeks.

Keep safe and remember – don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.

March 2020 Update

The world has changed dramatically since our last update, but we’re still here and open for business. Substantially fewer people have visited the site over the past weeks, but since we don’t rely on advertising or subscriptions, there’s no danger of us going away any time soon.

We are also offering pro bono services to the rail industry during this difficult period. If we can help you in any way, please email hello@opentraintimes.com.

Despite everything that’s going on right now, we’ve been beavering away at the site and we’ve just released our slightly late March update. Here are the highlights:

February 2020 update

We’ve just made a massive update to the site, with bugs squashed left right and centre. It’d take too long to go through everything we’ve done, but here are the important highlights:

January 2020 update

Due to some problems with some of the maps around Liverpool Street, we’re a little late deploying our January updates, but here they are!

Finally, if you’re in London on Tuesday 11th February, I’m presenting to the Institution of Railway Signalling Engineers. Tickets are free, but you need to be quick – sign up at Eventbrite.

Final update of 2019

The end of December is always a busy time on the railways. We’ve been hard at work updating our maps for all the Christmas works, as well as adding some new features. Here’s a summary:

  • At London Euston, the HS2 Works Sidings are now shown
  • The Bristol Parkway map boasts complete route coverage
  • Route indications are now shown on the signals controlled by Morpeth
  • The Cardiff Central map now includes the Vale of Glamorgan route with complete route coverage, as well as some route coverage around Cardiff Central
  • London Paddington now has route coverage from Ladbroke Grove to London Paddington
  • The Bedford to Syston map has the new four-track railway through Sharnbrook, plus route coverage of Sharnbrook Junction
  • Motherwell PSB has now been decommissioned, and our map shows the recontrolled area with complete route and signal coverage

This is no easy task – over the past month we’ve added nearly 3,200 new map elements, including signals, routes and berths, all by hand.

There are some additional fixes we’ll be making in the New Year, but now it’s time to shut down the computer and go celebrate the New Year.

Happy New Year!

December 2019 Update

Another load of updates have gone live on the site. They’re almost all bugfixes or addition of green ‘route set’ lights, but we have some new maps!

  • The Carstairs map covers just north of Carlisle to Motherwell, and will have a further update over Christmas when the area is recontrolled and Motherwell PSB closes
  • The Glasgow North West map covers Carntyne and Duke Street to Hyndland, via Anniesland and via Yoker to Dalmuir, the Alexandria and Milngavie branches and the terminus at Helensburgh Central
  • The Bristol Parkway map has been partially redrawn to show more detail of Stoke Gifford IEP depot, and now has route indications in the Bristol Parkway area
  • The Sutton map covers Sutton and extends our coverage of South London further
  • The Guildford map has been extended to cover the line through Dorking to Redhill

The problems we’ve been having with our data feeds seem to have resolved themselves. These were a combination of issues on our side compounded by major issues with the Open Data platform, making it difficult to get alerting happening under the right circumstances.

In the coming weeks, we will be looking for testers for our new site. This will have the same look and feel as the current site, but be faster and easier to navigate. Don’t volunteer just yet – we’ve not yet built our public staging infrastructure.

October 2019 Update

We have been impacted by several different problems with our systems and data feeds over the past couple of months. What is unusual is that on one or two occasions, it was our systems that were at fault, and on some other of the occasions, it was an industry-wide problem.

To play it safe, we’ve held off on making updates to the site until this evening, when we’ve released our latest set of updates. Here are some of the highlights:

We’ve also fixed a couple of problems which crept in after our migration to Amazon EC2 infrastructure, the more serious one causing delays in processing TRUST messages at various times.

And finally, we’re always available for paid consultancy and contract work. Drop an email to hello@opentraintimes.com to discuss your requirements.