It's been a while since our last proper update. Since the last update, I hired a new systems engineer (Chris), have done substantial charity work in Africa, RailMiles was finally relaunched and over the last six months we have been continuing to develop Realtime Preserved Trains into a proper product. We're also working on updates to Realtime Trains itself, as we have been since the last major update in August 2013.

What's taking so long for the next update?

We have to redesign the underlying databases and systems in order to do some of the things we'd like to do, and have now gone through about four different iterations without settling on the right approach.

We also don't have a huge amount in the form of 'new data' available to us at present, as the newest major sources of data made available from the industry are not 'open' in the manner that we would prefer for us to be able to use it. We do not want to use it as the licensing agreements inhibit us from disagreeing with the 'official' reflection of the picture, which we do on a frequent basis - most of the time accurately, as well. This alone has somewhat reduced our motivation towards developing something new.

Since taking Chris on, we've mostly been concentrating on Realtime Preserved Trains (RTPT) as this is currently the most promising route we have in terms of generating revenue. We are in discussions with several preserved railways to bring it to their lines. We see RTPT as being extremely useful to community railways to provide a digital information source to bring them closer to their mainline counterparts, and will continue to develop it towards meeting that goal.

What have we got coming?

We've got quite a few ideas in the works once we've completed the reworking of our underlying codebase. Some of the ideas on our list include better predictive accuracy using more data points, better information on platforms, answering questions why you are stuck at a red signal or why you are running slowly.

We'll be putting out a survey soon so we can find out more about why you use Realtime Trains, what you use the most and what you would like us to do in the future. This will help us shape the new version so we can properly target our time on the right things.

We need your help.

Realtime Trains is funded from advertising revenue, app sales and limited sales to third parties of data from our system. From this, we pay for salaries, servers and travel costs to do research and keep our databases up to date. In recent months, our advertising revenue has decreased substantially: our work has had to increase on other projects to compensate for this.

In order to try and ensure long term sustainability, we're looking at strategies of commercialising some parts of RTT. Based on our current plans, we're not going to make any of the existing information you can find on the site behind a paywall. We will, however, in the future make some newer features available by subscription. This will only happen after we have done all of our re-engineering of the system.

In order to try and accelerate development, we are going to do a round of crowdfunding to supplement the existing revenue from other sources and help us be able to concentrate more of our time towards RTT. If this works well enough, we hope to be able to advertise for a junior developer role to work full time on RTT. If you are able to contribute, we would be very grateful. Click here to be taken to our fundraising page.

Posted on January 31, 2017