Best laid plans

I’d planned to have ECS movements (at least) back on the site this weekend. For some reason, Network Rail’s system didn’t send over the usual load of timetable data on Friday night, and so we’re running on out-of-date data. “D’oh!” as Homer Simpson would say.

So, let me revise my estimation of ECS movements back, and push it to Wednesday morning – assuming, of course, I can get the timetable data sorted out in the meantime!

The first six weeks

It’s been six weeks since I launched OpenTrainTimes. In that short space of time, I’ve had over 17,000 unique visitors to the site and over 20,000 page views every day. That’s an awful lot of people, an awful lot of data, and far exceeded my expectations!

I’ve been swamped with emails from people singing the praises of the site – so much so that I haven’t been able to reply to every email personally. If I’ve missed yours off, I do apologise – there are only so many hours in the day.

Many people have pointed out bugs in the site, many more have made suggestions on what they’d like to see next. I thought I’d give you all a sneak preview of what I’m working on next.

  • ECS and Freight – judging by all the emails I’ve had over the past week, everyone wants to see freight and empty coaching stock (ECS) schedules back on the site. From later today, I’m going to put ECS trains back. I’m working on getting formal clarification on showing other schedules, but I really have no idea when this will be, as I’m not aware that anyone else has gone down this path before. I had a really positive meeting with Network Rail on Thursday, and this was one of the subjects I brought up. Watch this space…
  • Real-time data. I already have a TRUST feed with data for four TOCs, and I hope to have a full feed with all TOCs from about Easter-time. The biggest hurdle here is scaling it up – with about 30 concurrent visitors to the site at peak times, I don’t want everything to grind to a halt when I get another 100 looking at live train times!
  • Real-time maps. I have a feed from the train describer (TD) system, and I’m looking to make a real-time map of train positions, similar to swisstrains.ch. Harry Wood has been really helpful in talking through the geographical side of things, and I’ve had some success at rendering a map of the UK with cities and rail lines. The tricky part will be keeping the trains running along the lines on the map. The majority of trains in the UK don’t have GPS and don’t feed their position back, so there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes decoding going on.

So, that’s it. I now have the quite straightforward task of getting more rail industry data opened up (with many other people working toward the same goal), running a very popular and free website, and integrating three new, and quite big features. All that alongside spending 8 hours a day working and 3 hours a day travelling.