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Network Rail commits to becoming more visibly transparent

As part of its efforts to become more efficient and responsive, and be more accountable, Network Rail has announced it has updated its online transparency portal to signal to its online content.

The company, that is now a public body, said it believes that being transparent in how it works as a company and it works with stakeholders is integral to the success of the business; and is one of its main themes in its strategic business plan for the next five years.

 

Open Data - with some provisos

This section of its website contains links to real-time data feeds for a number of its operational systems, so developers can create apps which give the public a greater choice about the way they travel.
Network Rail states that it plans to add to the data feeds and hopes that by providing access to its data it will encourage the development of apps and websites that are of interest to passengers and the rail industry, as well as our wider stakeholders.

The page promises to regularly host or partner Open Data Hackathon events. To register interest in participating in a future event, or to use these feeds at an event, you can email TEDteam@networkrail.co.uk.

Network Rail’s Data Feed site similarly lists operational data feeds available to developers, provided to encourage the development of new products of interest to those who use the railway.

The operational data feeds available to developers are:

  • SCHEDULE - daily extracts and updates of train schedules from the Integrated Train Planning System, in CIF and JSON formats
  • MOVEMENT - train positioning and movement event data
  • TD - train positioning data at signalling berth level
  • TSR (Temporary Speed Restrictions) – details of temporary reductions in permissible speed across the rail network
  • VSTP (Very Short Term Plan) – train schedules created via the VSTP process which are not available via the SCHEDULE feed
  • RTPPM (Real-Time Public Performance Measure) - performance of trains against the timetable, measured as the percentage of trains arriving at their destination on-time
  • SMART - train describer berth offset data used for train reporting
  • Corpus - location reference data
  • BPLAN - train planning data, including locations and sectional running times

Network Rail claims that anyone can do use these feeds but users are required to create an account and agree terms, and there is a notional limit of 500 registered users, which it states will be increased if there is sufficient demand.

Access is provided under special terms and conditions, which must be agree to as a condition of use of the data feeds.

Technical details on the formatting of the feeds, and how they work, are offered at the Open Rail Data wiki at http://nrodwiki.rockshore.net/

 

Other doors of the transparency portal

Other features of the Transparanecy Portal includes:

Freedom of Information and Transparency

Mark Farrow, head of transparency for Network Rail said that Network Rail will continur to publish more data “as part of our commitment to being more open and transparent. Publishing information like our approach to vegetation management or safety will help people understand what we do, how we do it and why. 

We know that being more transparent will help us become a better, more efficient and responsive organisation, and make us more accountable to the people who use and fund our network. We recognise that there is more to be done and we are committed to making transparency part of everything we do at Network Rail.”

On 1 September 2014 Network Rail was reclassified as a public body and its transparency team has created a Freedom of Information (FOI) act implementation programme to comply with the FOI act and formally manage requests for information from April 2015.

In the meantime, it continues to operate a voluntary request handling scheme, to respond to requests for information within twenty working days.

The Government will bring forward secondary legislation in this area, and Network Rail said it is working to help establish how the legislation will work in practice, including which functions will be included.

The framework agreement which provides more detail on these changes is available at www.gov.uk/government/publications/network-rail-framework-agreement.

Network Rail said it has placed transparency as its of our main themes in its strategic business plan for the next five years.

It added “We know that being more transparent will help us become a more efficient and responsive organisation, and make us more accountable to our stakeholders. We’ve made a start but we recognise that there is more to be done and we are committed to making transparency part of everything we do at Network Rail.

See what we’ve been up to over the past three months with our transparency update.”

Network Rail also publishes information including details about level crossings, executive directors' expenses and a breakdown of annual company expenditure.

 

A principle of extending transparency across Britain’s railway

Back in May of last year, the UK rail regulator the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) reported that the rail industry was making progress in provide better passenger information, but passengers need to start seeing consistent improvements.

ORR’s passenger information assessment comes nine months after all train companies and Network Rail agreed to ensure passengers receive appropriate, accurate and timely information.

Also in May of 2015, Rail Delivery Group, that represents the owners of Britain's passenger train operating companies, freight operators and Network Rail, announced that it would make its real-time train information systems more accessible to developers, to help proliferate choice in the market for train information apps and other online tools.

From June 2014, to promised to make access the National Rail Enquiries (NRE) Darwin system free.

Previously, developers or bodies were required to pay for access to ATOC’s National Rail Enquiries Darwin information service and to comply with the terms of a license.

The RDG’s 2014/15 work programme is focused on the '4 Cs' of customers, cost, capacity and carbon. 

Among a number of other work streams, it agreed five principles for extending transparency across Britain’s railway. Its Transparency work stream  commits to extending openness in the rail industry by finding ways to make relevant data and information more accessible to both rail users and other stakeholders.

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