We are only two weeks in 2016 and it seems like NMBS/SNCB is keeping its promise as a presentation announced they now have an internal innovation project on Open Data. But more interestingly for us, the presentation, geving yesterday at the Digital Agenda Belgium event, announced they were wrong in 2010 sending Yeri a cease and desist letter. While people on twitter responded moderately (“How long is this going to take?”, “How about real-time data?”) we believe this is a huge step forward: it is the first time the NMBS/SNCB acknowledges we were on the right side of history. What iRail is concerned: we would love to start collaborating on a clean slate 🙂
— iRail (@iRail) January 13, 2016
It doesn’t stop there, today, we are featured in De Standaard with a piece on how NMBS should make use of their data in a better way:
Indeed: the query log files of iRail can be used as an indication of travel intention. You can now also reuse the log files yourself:
- Historic datadump from 2012 to 2016: https://github.com/pietercolpaert/irail-route-planning-query-logs
- Last 1000 requests refreshed each second: http://api.irail.be/logs/
This is a guest blog post by Pepijn Mores, a student at HELMo Saint-Marie. In this blog post he shows how easy it is to create an app to fulfill his own transportation needs, which we thought is very interesting: it is not always the big companies that use the data from the SNCB. Would you like to write a blog post here yourself? Contact us!
For the final project of my C# course at HELMo Saint-Marie, I had the opportunity to choose my very own topic. Only two requirements needed to be met: it had to be developed in C# (obviously) and it had to involve a technology we didn’t study in class. The amount of possibilities was enormous , therefore I decided to search for a subject that would actually be helpful to me in some way. Because I return home every weekend and the train takes about 1,5h, I came up with the idea to make an application for my PC that would look up the train tables and check if I had enough time for a sandwich at Panos at one of the changes. It was the perfect solution for me to look up the trains when I was attending my last course on Friday afternoon, so that I could plan my trip home whilst sitting in class. So that’s where the API of iRail came in.
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Today, the Belgian railway company announces a data sharing program for third party developers. They will start sharing the planned schedules (“static data”). We are cautiously excited that this is the first step towards a real open data policy.
You can request your own 1-on-1 contract via http://www.belgianrail.be/nl/klantendienst/infodiensten-reistools/public-data.aspx. We hope to make our own version, linked to our identifiers, available through http://gtfs.irail.be soon!
[More updates later today]
What does this mean for the end-users?
Companies like Google, Nokia, Microsoft and others can now start reusing the data if they negotiate a one on one contract. Starting today, you will see route planners from third parties work with NMBS/SNCB! Android and Google Maps users will be very excited as they now will also see trains suggested to their destination instead of only buses when selecting public transit.
Why isn’t this open data yet?
— Pieter Colpaert (@pietercolpaert) September 21, 2015
Open Data means that there’s no discrimination in who can reuse that data and that there’s no restrictions in in what way it can be used and redistributed. For now, you can access the data after signing a 1 on 1 contract. We think it’s a good thing NMBS/SNCB is testing the water before the law that will oblige NMBS/SNCB to do real open data comes into action in 2016. We look forward working together and iRail is as well in the process of requesting a license. We however want to be able to republish the data once we added our data to the dataset, which now isn’t allowed by default.
Why is iRail (cautiously) happy?
We once were forced to stop building applications using the data of NMBS. The original posts from 2010 can still be found in our archives. Today, the first steps towards Open Data have been taken and we are sure they will not regret it. We will slowly migrate our servers to make use of this official dataset. We look forward to seeing you build awesome new things with this high quality data!
Contact Pieter: +32 486 74 71 22
– The iRail Team
Since the disappearance of Railtime, the official NMBS/SNCB app was the only provider of travel information for the Belgian railways I was aware of. A few months ago, I got to know Railer, an initiative of the open data working group iRail. It has been my primary travel app for Belgian trains ever since. Last week, I discovered another app called OnTracks (by Maxime Pagnoulle) that also provides travel information for the Belgian railways. Given my interest in the way we present information to travelers, I decided to do a little side-by-side comparison of these three apps, to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
It’s been since April that we haven’t done another community update. Back then, we announced our migration to new servers, we’ve announced that we would have 2 students at open Summer of code 2015 and that we would start building a GTFS ourselves, as the law would now permit us to do so. NMBS/SNCB will open up their data by the end of this year… but why wait if their data is already on their website?