We’ve got 2 students at open Summer of code 2015

In the April update we’ve shouted out for people who wanted to help funding students to work on iRail datasets during open Summer of code 2015. And guess what? We’ve had a response!

Thanks to #iSoc12 alumna Miet Claes and mentor Xavier Bertels from the company Mono, we will be able to hire Brecht Van de Vyvere to work on a way to create the best GTFS export of the Belgian railway company for 2015-2016 so far. The funding is now closed, yet we still accept contributions in the form of pull requests and issues!


11 June 2015 by
Categories: Summer of code | Leave a comment

A law for Open Transport Data in Belgium

Today is the day that the minister of the Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo announced to create a law before the summer that will oblige NMBS/SNCB to open up their data.

UPDATE: More info on the PSI directive and this tweet can be found here:


22 April 2015 by
Categories: NMBS, open data | Leave a comment

April updates

Railtime is gone! It was an app which was perceived by many users as an app which offered a better user experience than the official NMBS/SNCB app (an app bought from a German service provider which was adapted for Belgium). The app got shut down in an effort of NMBS/SNCB to streamline its communication channels: “it would be ridiculous to have to maintain 2 apps”.

Best alternatives for RailTime: 2 iRail based apps are mentioned: BeTrains and RailerApp

Best alternatives for RailTime: 2 iRail based apps are mentioned: BeTrains and RailerApp

On this occasion, De Morgen wrote an article. In that article it is not only mentioning the efforts we have been doing, but it also advises its readers two alternatives for RailTime: one being BeTrains (an android app built on top of the iRail API) and the other being RailerApp (an iphone app built on top the iRail API). Couldn’t be more proud! In each case, it caused Railer installs to skyrocket:

Railer app installs skyrocketing after RailTime disappearing

Railer app installs skyrocketing after RailTime disappearing (installs per day)

De Morgen concluded that we need to strive for Open Data. Something we have been asking since 2010. With the press agreeing, minister Galant agreeing (cfr. her policy note 2015 in which she mentions open data) and our API which now handles an est. average of 300.000 requests per day, we hope that the NMBS/SNCB will take steps into opening up the data we value. In each case, we will be keeping a close eye on our mailbox.

With RailTime disappearing, we got a lot of questions whether the API would keep working. We answered these questions with a clear and sound “yes”. Yet, we didn’t take into account that the API endpoint providing information about specific trains used to work on top of the railtime mobile website instead of the NMBS/SNCB’s one (it used not to be able to give this kind of information). Luckily, @brechtvdv saved the day and wrote a new scraper into our code that was left unchanged since 2010. Thank you Brecht!

And fixing the Vehicle info bug wasn’t the only thing @brechtvdv did. He also started working on a The DataTank plug-in for automatically adding GTFS files. This will help start-ups and developers to get started with their own private API on top of data of De Lijn, MIVB/STIB and TEC. The code isn’t perfect yet, so we hope to receive feedback, issues and pull requests from everyone!

One day server load on http://irail.be - monitored on the new servers by SkyScrapers

One day server load on http://irail.be – monitored on the new servers by SkyScrapers

In the meantime, we have also done a server migration together with SkyScrapers (they are part of our community for 3 years now and have ever since provided managed hosting). We are now running the last version of ubuntu, which gives us PHP5.4+! This is a huge relief for a lot of our coders: PHP5.4 introduces nicer syntax which was previously unsupported. Furthermore, a lot of composer packages dropped support for PHP5.3 a while ago. With our shiny new servers in place, I have defined a couple of issues which will make contributing to the API a lot easier and painless.


Gitter.im is now a service we use for our real-time collaborations on the entire iRail project


In order to be able to work together as a community more efficiently, we’re now on Gitter. It’s an instant messaging tool which integrates with Github. We hope to talk to you there! Oh, and if you really want to use IRC instead, there is a IRC bridge available at https://irc.gitter.im/

In order to fix all these issues, we’re looking for funding to pay for a team during open Summer of code 2015. Summer of code started out as iRail Summer of code back in 2011. It’s where we provide students with the training to take on open source and/or open data projects. This year we would like to have an iRail team. A team costs €6000. Anyone an idea how to raise such funds? If you’re willing to co-fund these students, please do contact me! pieter@iRail.be


22 April 2015 by
Categories: apps, BeTrains, iRail, job offer, NMBS, open data, Politics, Summer of code, TEC, The DataTank | Leave a comment

FAQ: Railtime is stopping, can we (still) use your API?

In the past few days, we’ve got a lot of questions whether iRail will keep existing and what the impact of railtime disappearing will be on the iRail webservices.

Answer: iRail will keep existing and will keep publishing realtime data through http://api.irail.be. iRail has already moved away from railtime a while ago.

Happy coding!

09 April 2015 by
Categories: NMBS, open data | 3 comments

TEC and their open data policy

Last year, at Open Belgium 2014, TEC announced they would be doing Open Data. In May, the first BELTAC format was released, and not much later, we had converted it to GTFS (thanks to OpenOV): the facto standard that the world wide open transport community can use. The reasons were simple: we don’t have the means to follow up on everything: just use the data and that should be the end of it.

This year, we’ve had the honour to welcome TEC again as one of the speakers in our Open Belgium 2015 edition. This year it was different, as the keynote was given by Thomas Hermine from NextRide: a start-up that reuses data from the TEC to create a user-friendly application that indicates when the next bus will pass your stop.

As the only transport company in Belgium not having created an app, TEC still hasn’t a plan to do so. Instead, they are announcing the “TEC approved application” label: you can now apply to have your app listed among the official TEC apps.

Today, TEC is releasing data files. They are not easy to interpret. iRail will soon release an API that makes it easy for all developers to build an app without having to write server-side code. Hopefully, a lot more apps will apply for TEC’s label in the near future!

The first TEC approved app label goes to the app NextRide was announced during Open Belgium 2015

15 March 2015 by
Categories: open data, TEC | Leave a comment

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