[iRail] XML interface news

Yeri Tiete yeri at tiete.be
Wed Aug 11 17:06:39 UTC 2010


I have been in contact with someone that prefers to remain anonymous that has (limited) access to the NMBS (= Belgian Railway company) infrastructure.

First of all, the XML interface:

=> http://hari.b-rail.be/Hafas/bin/extxml.exe

This interface is used internally and no other application uses this (and it's not known to anyone).
There is no documentation about how this interface actually works (but Pieter has been playing with it) and thus he couldn't really help me further.

What I heard is that:
=> All trains and stations are actually numbers. 
Say Antwerp Central station is for example 3949 (example!). So without an index there is no point even trying. And he couldn't find any index. So we're kind of stuck on that. 

He also would rather not send us the request example, because we can't really use it, and it might endanger him (open data, yay) as it would be obvious the leak is from the inside. 

He thinks scraping the HTML site is the way to go, or to get in touch with the NMBS.

Now, the NMBS has two departments that could help us:
- National
- International

He told me "National" is very strict, closed minded and we'll likely waste time on that, however, "International" is a lot opener (and shares info with other (rail) companies, including Google, for free). As he said, he doesn't get Google gets all info while something like iRail is being stopped.

As for the NMBS itself, it pays about 1500 euro per week to HaCon, the Hafas developer. HaCon updates all information for all train companies (in Europe), and generates time tables and lists once a week on some Unix server. So queries are actually not real time queries over multiple countries, but there's a list of everything pre-generated or something. So keep in mind HaCon apparently does own all the data and the NMBS is paying a fee to use the data (and probably a fee to use the software as well). 

What I'd suggest, is actually just knock on the NMBS' door, and go for a chat. I'll mail them this weekend. 

As for the Trac website (http://project.irail.be), I hope to have it fully functional by tonight. 

Kind regards,
Yeri Tiete
yeri at tiete.be
+32 474/61.01.39

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