24 October 2012

Real-Time Train Times

I stumbled across what I'm calling the Railway Website Find of the Year on Monday when a friend posted a facebook status showing the southbound Inverness Caledonian Sleeper service running 266 minutes late due to a train striking a person overnight. In response, the creator of www.realtimetrains.co.uk left a link to his site that showed the delay and where it occurred.

A similar industry site exists that's slightly more detailed and less 'fluffy' called CCLDB. It shows the real-time progress of all trains on the national rail network. In a move that can only improve the lot for passengers and rail enthusiasts alike, Tom Cairns has produced the www.realtimetrains.co.uk website to effectively mirror that of Network Rail's CCLDB site.

Click to enlarge

As with the equally excellent www.trains.im website, there is a basic and an advanced/detailed site. Forget the basic option and use the advanced version from the start by typing www.realtimetrains.co.uk/advanced/ into the browser. The landing page allows you type a station in, plus a time or date and what kind of service you want to see.

I chose to place Scunthorpe in the location box, chose a custom time of between 0800 - 1000 on today's date (24/10/12). An option exists to choose which operator's services you want to view, or the default 'All' can be left checked. Within your search criteria, you can additionally filter the results to those running according to the Working Timetable (WTT), trains that have varied from the WTT for the 'requirements of the railway' (VAR), those that are operating under a short-term plan (STP) and trains that have been cancelled. You can also choose to show either passenger or non-passenger services. The latter refer to empty stock runs, not freight trains.

Click to enlarge

Beneath the data input area is an explanation of any terms that may cause the casual user some confusion.

My results showed all trains using Scunthorpe within the time period chosen and this can be changed by clicking either the +1hr or -1hr buttons. From the data provided, only the headcodes are clickable and doing so opens up the full working timetable for the service provided... and much more.

I clicked on 2P61 (0819 Northern Rail service to Lincoln Central) which started at Scunthorpe. The results show what you get from the 'detailed' section of trains.im as well as a real-time column which shows the train's actual progress. Data only seems to be available for the current day.

At the top of the results page there is a plethora of technical information about the schedule info, service info, passenger info and real-time info. Some of it I don't understand. In addition to the miles, the number of chains between each station is also shown. Stations the service calls at can be clicked (they're in blue) and stations/passing points the service doesn't call at are greyed out, so too are the timings for each.

There are then 5 columns - the first shows the public arrival/departure timings, the second shows the WTT arrival/departure times, the third shows the real-time timings - the timing is in red if the train is late and shows by how many minutes, in black if it is on time and green if the train is early. The fourth column shows schedule information (platform number, line used and path information - all where applicable) and the fifth shows operational allowances. There's plenty of information to see here.

Click to enlarge (the train arrived into Lincoln 8 minutes late in the end)

I've also searched for empty journeys, such as the diagram for the first East Coast train to depart from Peterborough bound for King's Cross on weekdays (3A00). I knew this travelled dead from Bounds Green depot, but hadn't realised it departed at 0150 went to King's Cross first - presumably to collect staff - before heading north at 0438.

 Click to enlarge - 3A00 (BN to PBO via KGX)

There are literally hours and hours of material to search here. All fascinating without the real-time information, too. Seeing how a service you're planning to catch performs on a typical day can be of interest to many and to see the passing times and points plus mileage and chains as well as technical information such as the lines used, is a bonus. It's certainly my Railway Website Find of the Year - www.realtimetrains.co.uk/advanced/
Only one suggestion from me - a simple search by headcode would be useful. Otherwise, it's a pretty amazing site.


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Petras409 said...

A great find. I'm not sure how far back the information is displayed. I tried to find a journey three weeks ago, that had a tight connection onto a bus at Penzance (8 mins). In the end, I decided to drive instead, but was interested to see whether I would have made it (the same train arrived 9 mins late this morning, so I would definitely have missed my onward bus!).

But there was no information. So, presumably, the site is only able to display a shortish window of dates.

Peter Sinatra said...

Very useful :o)

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Central User said...

The RTT site had a significant upgrade last week.

It now also stores data going back seven days.

Definitely worth a look.