Author Archives: Tom Cairns

The Black Hole of the Chilterns

Since Realtime Trains launched a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been pondering on how to fix what I call the black hole of the Chilterns.

Chiltern Railways has a small network that operates out of London Marylebone. The lines it operates split at Neasden operating up towards High Wycombe and Princes Risborough with the other line heading up towards Harrow, Amersham and Aylesbury – and this is the black hole.

1212 London Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway - showing the black hole in action

1212 London Marylebone to Aylesbury Vale Parkway - showing the black hole in action

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Tracking the trains, in realtime

Heatmap of UK

Realtime Trains generated heatmap of delays across the UK

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working away on which is the evolution on from my original train timetables websites.

Ever since RailMiles was first launched, I’ve been trying to find ways of making it easier to insert journeys. The main problem was, always, trying to find a reliable source of actual train times. I dabbled with the Live Departure Boards Web Service for a while, before it was locked down, but found it rather cumbersome to use.

I’m writing this post to mark the a milestone of the release of Realtime Trains and this posts details the functionality that the site is able to perform. Continue reading

At least 100,000 signatures later…

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion on the ICWC franchise. Nothing more, nothing less. This post therefore solely represents my own personal views and not those of any company I work, have worked for or will work for. I’ve also not proof read it, and I’m sure there are some typos and errors as a result. Comment if there are. Anyway, here goes…

I welcomed the announcement of the preferred bidder for the ICWC franchise. I felt that it was, on the whole, good news. Clearly, there are a lot of strong feelings that Virgin have done well and it shouldn’t be revoked. I don’t disagree that they’ve done well, but that doesn’t mean another company can’t improve upon the basis of what Virgin has given them.

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Working with rail timetable data

(yes, a post not about smartcards!)

I’m writing this post in the hope that it’ll aid people in working with CIF (railway timetable) data in general, as a pointer as to the nuances of the data and how to handle it. All my findings are, generally, implemented within my open source (and licenced under GPL) application called CIFReader, available on Github.

It’s written in C++ and requires the Boost and MySQL++ libraries in order to operate and be compiled. Anyone who wants any help is more than welcome to email me, but on the proviso that I am normally very busy.  Any comments or additions to the post, please email me too.

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Go smart. Spend more.

From the Wilts & Dorset webpage about their smartcard product, the key:

Multi-trip – new on m1 & m2 routes

This is a cheaper way of buying single journeys and the more you buy the more you save.Each time you put your key on the reader one journey is deducted.

  • 10 trip – £15 (£18 if you paid for each trip separately)
  • 20 trip – £29 (£36 if you paid for each trip separately)
  • 30 trip – £ 42 (£54 if you paid for each trip separately)

This assumes that each journey is a £1.80 flat fare. On the journey I take, it is £1.40. So, taking their PR, and applying it to my journeys…

  • 10 trip – £15 (£14 if you paid for each journey separately)
  • 20 trip – £29 (£28 if you paid for each journey separately)
  • 30 trip – £42 (£42 if you paid for each journey separately)

So, to go smart on my local operator, I don’t save any money if I buy a multi trip ticket and had I just believed their PR and gone for a 10 or 20 journey multi trip ticket, I’d be spending more.

Go smart. Spend more.