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Realtime UK train map

by Connorhd on March 30th, 2013

A quick project to visualise some of the open data available about the UK train network.

First of all, the result, you should be able to see a map of the UK below, with coloured dots appearing to represent trains as they arrive at stations in realtime.

This requires a browser that supports SVG and websockets, I’ve only tested it works in Firefox and Chrome.

Click for larger version

So, whats going on here?

It starts with the network rail operational data feeds one of which provides a stream of events for train movements (excellently documented by the Open Rail Data wiki). The interesting fields of data are the timestamp of the event, and the planned timestamp of the event, as well as the STANOX code. These allow me to locate the event, and to calculate the delay between when the event should have happened, and when it actually happened.

To display the events on a map the STANOX code needs to be translated into something more useful, to do that I grabbed one of the reference data files described here. I then use that to convert STANOX codes to TIPLOC codes (bear with me). Once I have the TIPLOC code I can find the Easting and Northing of stations using the NaPTAN dataset. This doesn’t cover the locations of all events as it only has public stations and doesn’t include depot/switch points that trains also report at, but it turns out it locates about 70% of the events received, which is more than enough for a visualisation.

Unfortunately Eastings and Northings are not a very useful co-ordinate system, what I really want is WGS84 latitude and longitude (GPS co-ordinates), thankfully Chris Veness of movable-type.co.uk has written conversion functions in javascript.

At this point I’m connecting to the National Rail data feed in node, looking up the location and coverting to the useful lat/long, so I have a realtime stream of train locations and how delayed they are in my console. The next step is to get this into a browser.

I don’t really have any experience with drawing maps in the browser, but my first guess that d3 will be useful proves correct, and I quickly find this extremely useful tutorial: Let’s Make a Map. I take the end result of this tutorial, slightly zoom and recentre the map (the national rail data doesn’t cover Northern Ireland, and not much goes on in the very north of Scotland). The result is a nice looking SVG UK map that I can draw points on using the d3 projection to convert the lat/long to x/y points.

The last thing to link together is to get the data from node to the browser, I wanted to use websockets given the streaming nature of the data, so I grab ws for node. I currently use lighttpd as a webserver, which can’t handle websocket proxying, so I also setup HAProxy in front of lighttpd to pass the websocket requests directly to node.

At this point it all works, I have dots appearing on my map in the browser as trains arrive at stations. To make things a little more interesting I use d3 to create a colour gradient for on time to very delayed trains, and I use a radial gradient with some transparency to make trains slightly colour an area of the map.

The result is what you (hopefully) see above, an animated map that shows locations of trains as they arrive, colour coded by how delayed the train is. The source for this is all available on GitHub.

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  • Steve

    Hi Connor, this looks interesting but doesn’t work for me. I get a message saying that the page cannot connect to websocket to load train data.

    Any thoughts? Steve.

  • David

    Same for me. Win64 Ult, Chrome, 150MB/s internet link