Wembley Mainline and East London Line maps

It’s Sunday evening again, which means it’s time to announce the work I’ve done over the last seven days – and it’s all map-related.

Maps take an incredibly long time to get right – there’s no quick way of drawing them other than by hand. Despite this, I finished drawing Kensal Green to Hatch End on the London Euston – Hatch End map earlier today. There’s more work needed – the relief lines at Willesden aren’t correct as the documentation I have misses out signals.

As a surprise extra, I drew out the East London Line from Highbury & Islington down to Surrey Quays. Again, it requires more work, and there are a couple of bugs at Highbury & Islington, and also one at Dalston Junction.

If you know either of the routes well and would like to help out, please get in touch.

I also spent a chunk of time working on showing Temporary Speed Restrictions (TSRs). The code will be ready for next week.

This week, I’m planning on making the site quicker. I’ve tested some significant speed improvements when looking up train schedules in a test environment, and I’m looking to put these in to production very soon. The production database has more than 600,000 train schedules and 9,000,000 calling points – sorting through these can take a couple of seconds.

Once again, thank you to everyone who’s been in touch over the past week. Keep sending in your feedback and comments! If you’re on Twitter, follow @opentraintimes, and of course, at the OpenTrainTimes Facebook page.

The Big Map

The first of the new real-time signalling maps is now live – London Euston to Kensal Green Tunnel has just gone live. I had planned to complete the whole line up to Hatch End, where control moves over to Watford Junction PSB, but I have to sleep sometimes.

As well as this map, there are several little bugs that have been fixed, mostly cosmetic, but there are still more to fix, and new features.

I’m hoping to complete the map and add the track up to Hatch End this week, then work on Watford Junction the week after. I am also working on speeding up the site – it’s still really slow at times thanks to the popularity of the site – but I have some ideas I’m testing out.

As usual, please keep sending in your feedback either to feedback@opentraintimes.com, or through Twitter.

New site release

It’s a week since I relaunched the site, and there’s been a steady stream of messages coming in reporting bugs, offering thanks or suggesting new features. Please, keep them coming!

I have just deployed new code to the server which should fix these bugs:

  • The signalling map sometimes didn’t load berth data, resulting in seeing a screen with four numbers in boxes
  • Bedford South Junction was missing from the Bedford – Luton map
  • The ‘favourite’ icon wasn’t appearing in browsers
  • The feedback button sometimes overlapped, invisibly, some schedules making it impossible to click the ‘i’ button
  • Allowances were shown in hours and minutes, and are now shown in minutes

There’s a bunch more work to do this week. Amongst other things, I’m working on speeding the site up – there are times when it’s impossibly slow for seemingly no reason. I’m also half way there with a map of London Euston – Hatch End (Wembley Mainline) and I hope this will be in next week’s release.

Thank you to everyone for the continued support and lovely emails!

On Freight

Here are possibly my final words on opening up freight schedules.

Freight schedules are commercially sensitive. Real-time data on freight trains is commercially sensitive. Freight operating companies (FOCs) don’t want the whole world to know about their operations because they’re in competition with other modes of transport – primarily road haulage. This makes the data quite different from passenger TOCs because there’s no outside competition.

I’ve tried to come up with a compelling justification for opening up freight schedules and real-time data, but I’m afraid I simply cannot find one. A few people have been in touch with me with legitimate reasons to analyse freight data – for example, in transport planning to construct bus timetables such that they don’t use level crossings around the time freight is due. However, the vast majority of people are enthusiasts, some of whom think everything should be free and don’t understand that commercial organisations are there to make money, not to service the enthusiast community.

You can get ‘gen’ about freight trains if you look in the right place. Yahoo! Groups has several groups just for freight workings, including consists (the loco and wagon numbers). Most of it appears to be supplied by insiders with access to the right IT systems and then filtered out gradually through a network of others. It’s is a process that’s been going on for years. I won’t comment on whether I agree with it or not – it’s not relevant – but I know this process will continue.

And now, the final words on whether freight will ever appear back in OpenTrainTimes – it’s very unlikely unless the Department for Transport, Network Rail and freight operators change the situation from above. I’m not going to pursue the issue any more – it was never on my agenda in the first place, and isn’t something I have time to fight for any more. However, if a freight company is willing for their schedules to appear on OpenTrainTimes, please contact me via email and I can make it happen.