[iRail] [Updating everyone] API - Goals and specification

Pieter Colpaert pieter.colpaert at gmail.com
Fri Aug 6 01:14:04 UTC 2010

Dear List,

Yeri started almost 2 years ago with only one goal in mind: A simple
mobile application that anyone could use to find information for his
train connection. As he was proud to have written an application that
snappy he informed the NMBS/SNCB with an e-mail. Their reply (after 2
years) however, was quite surprising.

After the letter of the NMBS/SNCB asking iRail.be to stop, the buzz
started. Instead of closing the iRail.be down he, after consideration
with Ywein Van den Brande, decided to put it back online and open
sourcing it all. Apparently that was a good decision because else you
would not be reading this.

* The Goals

For this project to succeed, we'd like to achieve 3 goals:

 1. Mobile train schedules for all mobile devices by taking the KISS
(Keep It Short & Simple) principle into account. This was the first goal
and it has more or less been achieved by Yeri. With an average of ~120
users/day iRail.be is currently providing a good service.

The next 2 goals are not at all achieved yet. They were only added
recently, after the NMBS/SNCB letter.

 2. Open transport data and an official API. Our webscraping API is only
a temporal solution and should disappear as soon as possible. The
NMBS/SNCB should make an *open-source* API theirselves and provide us
with *open* data: the trainschedules.

 3. An international API specification. We want to be able to use the
same calls and get the same responses with the German or French railway
system, as with the Belgium one. We already have the SNCF guy on the
mailinglist, and we're hoping for German people pretty soon too. All
other European countries should follow our example of course. Imagine
what this could mean for a client developer: implementing a system that
returns the fastest connection from Orange (France) to Berlin (=
ultimate goal)

As a secondary goal of course we will need a lot of awesome people that
use this API to create things we could never have dreamed of. For
instance Christophe wrote a chat application that enables you to chat
with people in the same train. Someone else is writing an application
that will show live tables of a station on you mobile device, someone
else is using the API to make a subscribe to this train service (and if
it experiences delays, we will notify you in time), and so on. 

* Specification

As for now, the specification of the iRail.be API you can find here:

We need however to discuss this properly and when enough people from
different countries have responded we will do a chat session to see what
API calls are necessary and what values should be returned. If there are
already additions at this moment, feel free to reply those on this

Yours sincerely,
Pieter Colpaert

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