Signalbox map showing trains

Bob writes:

I’ve been enjoying a new website called Signalbox. It shows the real-time location of every passenger train in Great Britain.

It’s almost hypnotic watching the different trains moving along the lines. And it brings a new perspective to the four million passenger journeys on Network Rail each day.

Signalbox (www.signalbox.io) currently covers the UK’s entire national railway network and the London Overground. It is being used by a number of firms in the rail industry and by various smartphone apps. If you are waiting for a friend to arrive, you can see when their train will be at your station. If you are a passenger, you can see where you are on the network. You can look up the stops and information about the service – such as whether there is a buffet carriage.

Signalbox image of trains to and from Manchester
Trains in and out of Manchester

On the map view, trains are coloured according to their delay. Trains that are coloured red are those delayed by more than 15 minutes. It’s rather amusing to think that a restaurant could use the app to send someone a message: “Your train is going to be 10 minutes late – would you like to order a take-away to be ready when you arrive?”

It’s relatively straightforward to use GPS to detect a train’s location. However, not all trains have GPS, and even if they do this information isn’t available all the time. Therefore, to work out a train’s location, Signalbox uses an algorithm that combines railway signalling information with artificial intelligence. It works on any device that can provide location information, including smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Signalbox was built with support from the Department for Transport and Ordnance Survey.

Signalbox can intelligently detect what train someone is on via their smartphone. The information can be automatically communicated to friends and family. This will hopefully end the era of loud mobile phone conversations on trains, where people shout “I’m on a train and it’s arriving late!”

Bob Webb
Author: Bob Webb FICE, non-executive director

You can see some of the projects where VGC has contributed to the safe and efficient running of Britain’s railways in the case studies section of this site.

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