This is the first time I’ve actually done of these posts, and it only occurred to me a few days ago that we were encroaching on cake day. Realtime Trains is 8 years old this year.
I sent a tweet 8 years ago today. It was somewhat of an all nighter the previous night to get my ‘summer project’ out of the door… a quick nap and then headed straight off to university in typical student style.
Please excuse me while I go collapse. realtimetrains.co.uk
Tom Cairns (@swlines) - 08:45, 3rd October 2012
2012 was an interesting summer - I completed an internship with ITSO, we had the small “London 2012” event of course and I was working on a technically challenging and interesting summer project. That “summer project” is still around to this day… and it’s had quite a lot of coverage and mentions in different places, by campaigners, user groups, in planning and Parliament.
The last year has been somewhat eventful for many of us but has been the busiest in a long time for RTT. It’s been a busy 12 months!
October: Released Realtime Trains v3
One thing in the back of mind for many years was the lack of attention given to the website and its visual design was beginning to look rather old. There were numerous comments across railway related forums about it with some even asking if it was even up to date. In mid-October 2019, the third version of the site was released which laid the groundwork for a substantial number of new features that have arrived over the intervening period.
If I had a penny for the number of times I’d been asked over the years about whether RTT was going to do any merchandise like other sites… I’d probably have enough to pay a years salary. Not much more than that, though. Badges had been made years ago with the new branding but I was deliberately holding off until the website was released. We now have badges for sale on the shop for £5 and some fabric face masks, but they obviously came later!
A quick mention to the annual ‘Christmas train’ too, as that normally takes a day or two of development to get working…! It’ll be back in 2020, but taking advantage of more recent features…
January: Systems Updates
January marked the second stage of the upgrades to Realtime Trains, mostly in the underlying technology than anything visibly large. It resulted in a lot of improvements and a reduction in errors.
February: Train Allocations
Although formally announced in March, GB Railfreight were the first operator to release train allocations in late February. Train allocations have long been one of those ‘odd’ things that they’re simultaneously widely available and not at all. Painted numbers on a locomotive? Why would anyone want those?!
March: Know Your Train - ScotRail
ScotRail became the first passenger operator to release their train allocations to us in March. As a result, we released Know Your Train showing useful diagrams of the train types and facilities.
Caledonian Sleeper released their train allocations just prior to lockdown in March joining GB Railfreight.
April was fairly quiet as a result of lockdown, there was a release planned here but it’s now delayed until next year.
May marked some subtle improvements to the Know Your Train system creating balance between the simple and detailed modes with facilities showing on both sides.
June: LNER joins the party
In late June, LNER joined Know Your Train with their Azuma and class 91 fleets. It also marked the first operator with carriage borne facilities, showing the coaches with wheelchair spaces, bicycle storage and quiet coaches, etc.
In July, we added the actual train allocations for the Azuma fleet.
In August, Locomotive Services became the next operator to provide train allocations on the site - bringing us up to 5 operators in total, 3 mainline passenger operators and 2 charter and freight operators. It now covers just over 10% of all services on the network in both services and mileage terms. I think that’s pretty good going seeing as we were at zero at the beginning of the year.
P.S. Please stop emailing me about more operators. It takes time, effort and working against a huge amount of resistance. On the flip side, if you’re at an operator… email me!
September: Track Your Train
Track Your Train has been in my mind for a very long time and was initially planned to be released in April or May. Lockdown delayed progress to its development, mostly due to testing requirements, but it was finally released in mid September. Initially available on selected routes from London Liverpool Street, we’re currently working on its further rollout and building the models needed to support that.
There are quite a lot of things on the road map for the next year, most of them having been delayed for various reasons due to lockdown. Expansions, new features and new countries are all on their way.
Here’s to the next year!