Category Archives: Summer of code

August updates

Hi all,

It’s been since April that we haven’t done another community update. Back then, we announced our migration to new servers, we’ve announced that we would have 2 students at open Summer of code 2015 and that we would start building a GTFS ourselves, as the law would now permit us to do so. NMBS/SNCB will open up their data by the end of this year… but why wait if their data is already on their website?

Launch of GTFS and GTFS-RT for the SNCB

Check out! It now contains data from NMBS/SNCB for 2015, including our first realtime feed for the Belgian railway company (huge news for techies)! This feed contains the updates such as train delays and notifications on the entire network. You can discover what’s in this GTFS-RT by checking out our new dashboard

2/3d of the iRail team at open summer of code 2015's final event

2/3d of the iRail team at open summer of code 2015’s final event

The project has been developed during open Summer of code 2015 by Brecht Van de Vyvere and Tim Tijssens. A report on their 3 week journey can be read over here:

Nice GTFS bla bla… but what does it mean for me?

If you are not technical, you might be delighted with this news: you can now do intermodal route planning across entire Belgium with apps such as CityMapper and Ally.

Furthermore, also webservice creators such as the guys from implemented our feeds in their webservice! As a developer, you can now use their API to get route planning advice from A to B across Europe.

New apps on top of our API


I know, this one was also announced in the April updates, but hey… they now added support for the Apple Watch!

apple watch with NMBS/SNCB info


A new Android app hit the market. Let us know what you think!

Our servers

Moving away from apache, now installing nginx and varnish for cachability. We used to have varnish installed over apache a while back. Then we’ve decided to put HTTPS on all our domains. Now, we’re going to make our servers faster again by installing varnish. This will be done by the lovely people of skyscrapers (who gladly gave me a spot to work when I was in Antwerp last week 
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We’ve got 2 students at open Summer of code 2015

In the April update we’ve shouted out for people who wanted to help funding students to work on iRail datasets during open Summer of code 2015. And guess what? We’ve had a response!

Thanks to #iSoc12 alumna Miet Claes and mentor Xavier Bertels from the company Mono, we will be able to hire Brecht Van de Vyvere to work on a way to create the best GTFS export of the Belgian railway company for 2015-2016 so far. The funding is now closed, yet we still accept contributions in the form of pull requests and issues!


April updates

Railtime is gone! It was an app which was perceived by many users as an app which offered a better user experience than the official NMBS/SNCB app (an app bought from a German service provider which was adapted for Belgium). The app got shut down in an effort of NMBS/SNCB to streamline its communication channels: “it would be ridiculous to have to maintain 2 apps”.

Best alternatives for RailTime: 2 iRail based apps are mentioned: BeTrains and RailerApp

Best alternatives for RailTime: 2 iRail based apps are mentioned: BeTrains and RailerApp

On this occasion, De Morgen wrote an article. In that article it is not only mentioning the efforts we have been doing, but it also advises its readers two alternatives for RailTime: one being BeTrains (an android app built on top of the iRail API) and the other being RailerApp (an iphone app built on top the iRail API). Couldn’t be more proud! In each case, it caused Railer installs to skyrocket:

Railer app installs skyrocketing after RailTime disappearing

Railer app installs skyrocketing after RailTime disappearing (installs per day)

De Morgen concluded that we need to strive for Open Data. Something we have been asking since 2010. With the press agreeing, minister Galant agreeing (cfr. her policy note 2015 in which she mentions open data) and our API which now handles an est. average of 300.000 requests per day, we hope that the NMBS/SNCB will take steps into opening up the data we value. In each case, we will be keeping a close eye on our mailbox.

With RailTime disappearing, we got a lot of questions whether the API would keep working. We answered these questions with a clear and sound “yes”. Yet, we didn’t take into account that the API endpoint providing information about specific trains used to work on top of the railtime mobile website instead of the NMBS/SNCB’s one (it used not to be able to give this kind of information). Luckily, @brechtvdv saved the day and wrote a new scraper into our code that was left unchanged since 2010. Thank you Brecht!

And fixing the Vehicle info bug wasn’t the only thing @brechtvdv did. He also started working on a The DataTank plug-in for automatically adding GTFS files. This will help start-ups and developers to get started with their own private API on top of data of De Lijn, MIVB/STIB and TEC. The code isn’t perfect yet, so we hope to receive feedback, issues and pull requests from everyone!

One day server load on - monitored on the new servers by SkyScrapers

One day server load on – monitored on the new servers by SkyScrapers

In the meantime, we have also done a server migration together with SkyScrapers (they are part of our community for 3 years now and have ever since provided managed hosting). We are now running the last version of ubuntu, which gives us PHP5.4+! This is a huge relief for a lot of our coders: PHP5.4 introduces nicer syntax which was previously unsupported. Furthermore, a lot of composer packages dropped support for PHP5.3 a while ago. With our shiny new servers in place, I have defined a couple of issues which will make contributing to the API a lot easier and painless.

Gitter is now a service we use for our real-time collaborations on the entire iRail project


In order to be able to work together as a community more efficiently, we’re now on Gitter. It’s an instant messaging tool which integrates with Github. We hope to talk to you there! Oh, and if you really want to use IRC instead, there is a IRC bridge available at

In order to fix all these issues, we’re looking for funding to pay for a team during open Summer of code 2015. Summer of code started out as iRail Summer of code back in 2011. It’s where we provide students with the training to take on open source and/or open data projects. This year we would like to have an iRail team. A team costs €6000. Anyone an idea how to raise such funds? If you’re willing to co-fund these students, please do contact me!