The University of Southampton

Student designs app to help commuters stay on track

Published: 27 March 2014
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A University of Southampton student is hoping to end the frustration that commuters experience waiting for trains by providing them with real-time rail updates through his mobile phone application, Realtime Trains.

Electronics and Computer Science student Tom Cairns has recently launched an app for the iPhone and iPad that provides users with real-time information on delays, departures and arrivals, as well as other details such as platform numbers, to make rail journeys run more smoothly.

Tom originally launched Realtime Trains as a website two years ago. The site now has around 350,000 real-time requests a day and over 100,000 individual UK users per month.

He had the idea for the service partially as a result of the lack of information available on his daily commute to university. Tom said: “I was quite frustrated with what existed and thought it could be done better. I wanted a real-time system that showed what was actually happening on the network at any time.”

Realtime Trains notifies users of when their train is approaching the station, arriving at the platform and boarding passengers. It also provides the platform information before it’s announced on the station boards.

Unlike others on the market, Tom’s app only uses open data from Network Rail. “The information I’m using effectively represents past events. I’ve had to develop algorithms to adapt this data so that I can build accurate predictions of the future,” said Tom.

Now in the final year of his Master of Engineering degree in Computer Science, Tom is planning to incorporate a journey planner in the near future and eventually expand the service into a one-stop shop for all public transport enquiries, including buses.

He said: “Public transport should be wide out in the open. Any information that can be made available can be formulated so that it becomes helpful to passengers. People should know where their train or bus is and what it will cost, or if it’s delayed and for how long.”

The Realtime Trains app is now available to buy from the iOS App Store or as an Android app from Google Play and the service is freely available at www.realtimetrains.co.uk.

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