The last few months have been hectic. We’re continuing to work on the next major release of the site, which is a total rewrite – and to make sure the public-facing site remains free, we’ve been taking on more consultancy and software development work for the rail industry. Some of the projects that have had our input are very interesting, but not in the public domain – but the important thing is they’ll make sure there is always a public, free version of the site.
Many of you will have noticed that the Network Rail Data Feeds platform has been substantially less reliable than we need it to be over the past weeks and months. Outages started happening several times a day, meaning we weren’t able to bring you accurate information. This didn’t just affect us – all other sites using the Open Data platform were affected. The sheer scale of the problem and the number of people affected has been brought to Network Rail’s attention, and their supplier and maintainer of the Data Feeds platform is working on making it more stable.
Separately, we’ve invested a great deal of time and a lot of money in getting resilient connectivity set up to Network Rail for our commercial projects. We are seriously considering moving the public-facing website over to this feed – but there’s work to do so we obfuscate (hide) freight and engineering trains in the same way as the Open Data feed does. This will mean we’ll be immune to any future outages that affect the Open Data platform, which is obviously good – but is this the right thing for us to do? Having such a large and visible site to highlight problems with the data feeds is useful – it means there’s one more big name that’s affected when problems occur, and that helps get the problems fixed for everyone, not just us. Maybe we should continue with the public site using public feeds. Comment on this post with your thoughts.
We’ve set up a status site to show you what’s going on. Any outages will be reported here once our systems detect them, and also tweeted to a new account (details to come). You can subscribe via email to alerts too.
This status page plugs directly in to our monitoring systems, which we’ve moved over to Amazon EC2 so we can run the public site alongside our commercial products. Over Christmas, we’re going to be moving the last bits of the website over. You shouldn’t see anything different.
Finally, we made a few updates to the existing site:
- The Filton 4-Tracking project has completed, and our Bristol Parkway map has been updated. We’ve had to move the Avonmouth route on to a new map, because there’s simply no way we could manage to fit it on to the existing map!
- The line between Saltmarshe, Howden and Ferriby has been recontrolled to York ROC, and is now available on our Hull area map
- The Thameslink route through Wimbledon was moved to new signalling system at Three Bridges ROC some months ago and, a little late, we’ve updated our map to include route and signal indications
Until the next time, have a peaceful festive period, and see you in 2019!
Our new site infrastructure is progressing really well. The mapping engine is under test at the moment, and we have a big configuration exercise about to start to get it all working. More on that in a few weeks.
Despite all the testing, we’ve released a map of the Horsham area, and fixed a couple of issues on the Derby map.
Earlier this week, we launched our updated Derby map and promised that we’d be adding route indications in due course. Today, we released the update, along with several other issues fixed:
- A crossover from Royal Oak Sidings at Paddington was commissioned at Christmas and is now present on the map
- We’ve included two berths at Glenrothes with Thornton which will more accurately show trains in the station
- There’s a new pair of berths between Shiplake and Henley which will stop trains disappearing on the branch
- Signal 2490 at Oxford now shows descriptions when trains pass through
- Two berths near Proof House Junction outside Birmingham New Street were showing incorrect descriptions
We’re still working hard on our new Scottish map – more on that in a subsequent update.
This week, we’ve been working on extending existing maps to continue to cover more of the railway network, and so the following maps have extra track and signalling:
Due to popular request, we’re now displaying the last train that entered a platform at London Kings Cross. Let us know what you think of it – positive or negative!
We’ve also fixed bugs at Woodborough Sidings, Liverpool Lime Street, between Poynton and Adington, and signal 2215 at Swindon – all of which were reported as bugs to firstname.lastname@example.org. Every email you send to the support email address is logged and used to help us prioritise what to fix and work on next.
We’ve been busy again this week with another new map of Oxenholme to Carlisle, which almost completes our coverage of the West Coast Main Line up to the border with Scotland. Expect an extension through Motherwell when the area is resignalled.
Amongst other things, we’ve also fixed a few problems and added platform numbers at Bristol Temple Meads, added a berth at Barnt Green where trains seemed to disappear, fixed the platforms at Liverpool Lime Street and missing berths near Kemsley on the Chatham map.
Let’s see if we can keep up the pace and get another brand new map out for you in the next week!
We’re pleased to announce that the Oxford area map has been updated as result of the major resignalling between Didcot and Oxford over the past few weeks. The map went live on Sunday evening, and we’re still fixing a few bugs with it (such as limit of shunt boards appearing as TVM430 markers) – but this evening we’ve added signal aspects to the map. There are still some issues on the Didcot map to fix too, and we’ll update that map in the coming days.
Also, by popular demand, we’ve drawn a map of Bristol Temple Meads which covers down to Bridgwater and joins up with our Exeter map at Cogload Junction.
Other issues we’ve worked on include dead berths between Leeds and Wakefield Westgate, incorrect routes from signal 176 at Shortlands, some missing GPLs at Swanley, new signals between Liskeard and Taunton, a missing crossover at Northallerton, routes on the East Coastway map, a problem with the fringe between Kings Cross and Peterborough PSB, route issues at Bradley Junction near Huddersfield – along with HU752’s signal berth not updating, updates as a result of the Ashton Moss resignalling, and a couple of minor updates to the North Lincolnshire map.
Finally, in a change to how we normally do things – the next map is probably going to be Liverpool Lime Street.
Earlier today, the OpenTrainTimes website was down. The root cause was that one of the disks was full, which we’ve fixed and put our recovery process in to action. Given the time it takes to replay a backlog of messages – a problem we’ve had before – it took until about 3pm for us to catch up on the missed messages.
Although we have plenty of monitoring in place to alert us of problems such as this, we’ve identified – in this case – that the monitoring was set up for the wrong server. Consequently, nothing alerted us to the imminently-filling disk.
We’ll be fixing this over the coming days.
We’re sorry for the extended degradation in service today. We don’t take outages lightly, and we’ll be looking at ways to stop this happening in the future.
After a longer than anticipated delay due to being busy working on the new site, we’re really excited to bring you a new map – Chester to Llandudno Junction (exc.), which joins up with the Wirral Lines and Crewe maps.
We’ve also fixed a couple of other minor issues – but the focus at the moment is getting the new website up and running.
The weekends are never long enough to do everything we want to do. Still, we’ve managed to get a new map of Blackpool North and South finished, and also fixed a number of little bugs:
- At Hayes & Harlington, we’ve split out the ‘last received’ platform berth and we now show the next train due to leave the bay platform
- More routes are now on the Slough map
- One of the routes from WK375 signal at Woking was drawn over the wrong set of points, which we’ve fixed
- The positioning of some shunt signals at Feltham was wrong, so we’ve moved them around to be correct
- At Bromley North, the route indications out of the two platforms were swapped around
- Many of the station links on the Victoria to Nunhead map didn’t work, so we’ve plumbed them in and also added additional route indications
- At Acton Main Line, SN205 signal was mispositioned on the wrong line
We’ve still got lots of support tickets to get through, so we’ll be spending most of our time this week trying to get the number down.
Time flies when you’re busy working on so many projects!
A couple of weeks ago, Railbuddy launched – it’s a Delay Repay app for Apple iOS (at the moment) which will be useful if you commute regularly. We run the real-time engine for Railbuddy which manages data for the entire country, and writing it was one of the reasons updates have been a little slower over the past months. Download the app and give it a try!
There have been a lot of minor fixes to maps over the last six weeks or so – here’s a selection of the more visible changes we’ve made:
- At Ledburn Junction, we now show the berths for shunt signals which allow trains to reverse. Not many make these moves, but when they do, the train disappeared
- Signal WK442 on the Alton map and the interface with the Watercress Line are now shown correctly, and duplicate repeater signal identities have been removed
- We missed the Kettering – Corby works, so the Bedford North Junction to Syston map wasn’t updating correctly – so we’ve updated the map and it’s all working now
- The West Dulwich to Otford, Teynham and Sheppey map is extended up to Otford, Bat and Ball, and Kemsing. The entrance to the EMU depot (signals 4122, 4120 and 4118) has been redrawn and routes added from 4123 and 4127 signals. Some signals and routes up to and around Swanley have also been fixed
In the pipeline are new maps of Stalybridge to Huddersfield, and the Blackpool North and Blackpool South branches. Those will be along as soon as they’re ready. We’ve also got a new mapping engine being tested at the moment – when we launch it, the site will be able to cope better with the hundreds of simultaneous users we have. More on that in another post.
As always, please keep your emails and tweets coming – there’s a backlog of support tickets which we’re hoping to get through this week and next weekend, and we’ll release the Huddersfield area map as soon as it’s finished testing.