ODI summer showcase: Visualising Rail Disruption

We chat with George Goldberg, Joe Letts and Craig Buchanan from the Fasteroute team about their ideas behind winning summer showcase project Visualising Rail Disruption, and what they have in store

null Visualising Rail Disruption will build open tools to collect and analyse National Rail data, and produce a web application for users to explore.

What’s your idea in a nutshell?

To allow people to explore historical open rail data, which will help travellers to make more informed decisions when travelling by rail.

Sounds interesting! What gave you this idea?

Rail passengers are often faced with decisions to make, such as which train to take, without knowing the full picture. We realised this while developing our live departure board National Rail application Fasteroute.

If a commuter could find out whether the train before their regular train was running on time, it would help them get to work on time more regularly so they could leave the office earlier. Imagine you’re taking the train to a job interview, or an important meeting in a city you don’t normally travel to. If you could find out how consistent and punctual the train you are choosing was, you could decide how much time to leave spare in case of delays, rather than needlessly arriving hours early ‘just to be safe’. These types of decisions could be made if historical rail information was easier to access and interpret.

When did you first get excited about open data?

We believe open data is an extension of the concept pioneered by open source software. The ability to share, explore and modify has revolutionised the tools that we take for granted. Just look at the proliferation of the web, mobile apps and software-based startups we have seen grow over the last two decades. Without the open source software underpinning these developments, it’s hard to imagine any of this happening. We believe access to data can inspire new discoveries and new ways of interpreting our surroundings.

Where do you see open data in 10 years?

We see open data becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Building a tool to explore historical rail data would have been completely impossible as little as five years ago, as the data simply was not publicly available. We see a future where any service that is publicly funded or subsidised will provide any data they collect, without restrictions, to everyone. This will allow tools to be created helping anyone to explore this data and use it to make better decisions.

What are your plans for your project, and how will you achieve them?

In the coming weeks we will build open tools to collect and analyse National Rail data and produce a web application that allows users to explore it, with an emphasis on historical delays and reliability. The National Rail data will come from the Darwin Push Port (with Open Government Licence) and will be displayed with OpenStreetMap (also with Open Database Licence) data.

We’re really excited about the opportunity to work on National Rail open data for the ODI’s summer showcase and we look forward to telling you more about our progress soon. If you’d like to contact us about our project, we can be reached at [email protected]

The ODI summer showcase commissions open data projects with tangible economic, social or environmental impacts. Find out more here.

If you have ideas or experience in open data that you'd like to share, pitch us a blog or tweet us at @ODIHQ