Transport for London joins open data drive

Transport for London has become the latest government agency to make its internal data publicly available.

The capital’s transport administrator has begun the process of publishing datasets including station and ticket locations and repair works, through both its own Internet repository and the government’s existing online data store.

With these data sets, TFL said in a statement, software development communities will be able to create "a wide range of high quality services and applications".

TfL is also encouraging software developers to build their own applications around the data. This is a common component of open data initiatives, although authorities in Washington DC recently revealed that their attempts to involve local developers had proved unsatisfactory.

Christoper Osborne, business development director at transport intelligence consultancy ITO World, which has worked with the department for transport on data-driven initiatives, said that TFL should be "applauded" for its decision to release internal data, but insisted that the project is still at an early stage.

"The really useful stuff is yet to come," he told Information Age. "The ability to add scheduling and routing will be a big step up, and then I think in about a year’s time we should be looking at more real-time information. That’s more complex, as some of the infrastructure doesn’t actually exist yet."

According to Osborne, a programme to add GPRS sensors to London’s buses has just been completed, but the "data infrastructure" for transmitting route information back to TFL does not exist at this moment in time.

[UPDATE] A programmer has used the TfL data to build a ‘live’ map of all trains on the London Underground systems. It works by taking the live departure times from each station and moving an icon representing a train along a map of each route according to the estimated journey time. You can see the map here.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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