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Government Transportation United Kingdom

UK's National Rail Shuts Down Free Timetable App 145

Posted by timothy
from the hey-buddy-we-said-often-not-always dept.
JHaselden points to this "sad tale of one developer's trying time with the National Rail, the owners of the UK's train timetable data, which flies in the face of the recent assertion of Chris Scoggins (Chief Executive, National Rail Enquiries) in Wired recently stating that they had 'opened up' their data, 'often free of charge.'" This is a good case for keeping your old emails handy; the app's author uses cut-and-paste to excellent effect in his correspondence with the rail system.
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UK's National Rail Shuts Down Free Timetable App

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  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm (768152) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:50AM (#34109698)
    What are they worried about? The risk that this might lead to customers sucessfully using their service?
  • by Kilrah_il (1692978) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @07:52AM (#34109702)

    And you are a silly person. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time, you silly English Knnnniget!

  • Re:WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:04AM (#34109754)
    They're probably afraid there will be a central database which shows just how regularly their services are late, and people will start claiming for ticket refunds based on that data.

    They really don't want that to be particularly easy, much less automated. All you'd need is to pick up the scheduled time and actula arrival time using this app, and you'd be well on your way to free train rides for life.
  • Re:WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Hook (923766) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:05AM (#34109758)

    What are they worried about? The risk that this might lead to customers sucessfully using their service?

    That a free to use service would compete against mobile apps which they may themselves may produce in the future and/or paid for apps which others may produce which they can charge commercial licenses for (made by real companies not which they can have proper business relations with, not a lone guy in a bedroom producing a paid for app).

    I really expect an app from National Rail to be arriving any time now based on the squirming exhibted in the corrspondense.

  • Re:WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:13AM (#34109790)

    A successful service is not just a profit making service.

    I commuted by train last year. During the winter for I found that 1 in 10 trains would be delayed/cancelled. I got so angry with the way we were treated that I chose to cycle 20 miles a day in snow just so I didn't have to use their service.

    Just because the trains are busy doesn't mean that they are good - it means that there is no other option

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @08:22AM (#34109824)

    You obviously haven't worked in professional software development at all if you think he's wrong.

    Most software or IT projects, especially in the US and the UK, actually are nothing more than resume padding. They're almost never done to benefit the employees using them, and especially not the customers being served by those employees.

    That's why Swing apps were considered acceptable for so long, even though they were absolutely hell to use and often reduced productivity. But buzzwords must change as time goes on, so those got replaced with in-house "web apps". They're even shittier to use than Swing apps, but there's a much richer ecosystem of buzzwords to pad one's resume with.

    Now even they are being eclipsed by "cloud apps" that combine the worst of web apps with the worst of third-party hosting, to create an environment that's absolutely horrible to work with. Employees forced into using cloud-based apps actually want to go back to the Swing apps!

  • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:01AM (#34110074)

    It might lead customers to not buy their own £5 iPhone timetabling app.

  • Re:Me too... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stiggle (649614) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:03AM (#34110086)

    The key bit in their Code of Practice for access to the data ( http://www.atoc.org/about-atoc/national-rail-enquiries/code-of-practice [atoc.org] ) is:

    "Whether the proposed use is of additional benefit to passengers. Applications which in NRE’s reasonable opinion are of demonstrable
    benefit to passengers will be granted unless outweighed by a material adverse impact on TOCs (whether financially, strategically, operationally or in regards to their reputation or the reputation of the industry as a whole)."

    So their own code says they will kick you if you financially impact the TOCs (Train Operating Companies). ie. You produce a free product which competes with their own mobile apps.

  • Re:Me too... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JohnBailey (1092697) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @09:09AM (#34110150)

    Bizarrely, you would think it would be in the interests of the Train Operating Companies for the public to have convenient access to this data - but the association that represents them seems more interested in making a quick buck on licensing Android and iPhone apps.

    You are obviously not compartmentalising enough.
    Companies that run public services such as this do not concern themselves with petty utility or such trivial things as efficiency. They have a brief,and they will stick to it no matter what. Their goal is to publish the timetable data. Not for anybody to actually use it.

  • Re:WTF (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MonsterTrimble (1205334) <monstertrimble AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @10:20AM (#34111090)
    I seriously don't get it though. Our municipal bus service (Winnipeg Transit) in the past few years has really started putting forward efforts to do this sort of thing free of charge. Trip planners, GPS on all busses, bus stop schedules available by text message, and we are currently (FINALLY!) putting in the first leg of rapid transit. Why any service would want to discourage this sort of thing is beyond me. Frankly, they should have offered this guy money to do it for them if they are planing on implementing it themselves.
  • Re:Me too... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @11:27AM (#34112292)

    Bizarrely, you would think it would be in the interests of the Train Operating Companies for the public to have convenient access to this data - but the association that represents them seems more interested in making a quick buck on licensing Android and iPhone apps.

    I'm not so sure. Many of the train companies would - were it not for very generous subsidies - be losing money hand over fist, even when most of their trains are is standing-room only and UK ticket prices are some of the dearest in Europe. Essentially, they can't make an honest profit even when they've got customers coming out of their ears.

    In which case, every other potential source of revenue - even if it's something like this which patently should be made available free - needs to be exploited.

  • by gknoy (899301) <(gknoy) (at) (anasazisystems.com)> on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @12:09PM (#34113086)

    Those pedantic about either spelling or grammer are ultimatly the sad pathetic people who sit alone out in the kitchen at parties picking at their nails trying to not make eye contact with anyone.

    Conversely, they may be people who care passionately about using language The Right Way -- much as Star Wars nerds will correct you if you assert that Han was Leia's sister, or that Luke build R2-D2. Pursuit of perfection is something which all nerds do to a certain extent, especially programmers. If I tell you, "your code example is missing braces on your 'if' clause, so it won't evaluate the way you want it to", I'm not trying to be an asshole. Think of it as a verbal compiler error. Ironically, many programmers take the perspective that writing in English is something in which correctness and conformity to convention doesn't matter -- and yet we must be extremely correct when coding.

    Think back to school? did anyone like that kid who used to correct the other kids grammer? no. no they did not.

    What can I say - no one likes being exposed as wrong.

    There is no standards body for the english language, if someone says something and you understand it and the meaning you get is close enough to what they intended then it's perfectly good.

    Natural language is too ambiguous to parse. You cannot always guarantee that someone will understand what you mean, and errors in word choice, punctuation, or spelling only compound that. People who care about communication take the time to be courteous to their listener/reader, and write/speak in a way which they know the audience will not mistake. If you can't be bothered to follow the conventions which guide English language (even if they aren't codified the way French is), you're either a visionary literary mind (e.g., e e cummings) or you need an editor.

    The OED is considered by many to be a definitive reference for spellings and word meanings. I'm not sure where one would find a grammar reference - googling for one was not immediately useful. Still, not poor spelling is, in the age of the internet, a sign that one doesn't care about spelling it right, rather than not knowing the spelling. Unless you've mangled the word (and even then), Googling for it will give great answers. Sometimes Google corrects it, and other times the first page of results gives the answers many times over. ("orderves" -> "how do you spell orderves" -> "hors d'oeuvre") In short, spelling errors are a sign of either unnoticed typogaphical mistakes or of laziness, and when they're systematic people will tend to assume the latter.

  • by Kilrah_il (1692978) on Wednesday November 03, 2010 @02:07PM (#34114754)

    I know that spelling!=grammar, but still, you would expect someone who is pedantic about a person's grammar to at least go over his post and make sure there are no spelling mistakes.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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