back to article TfL wheels out digital bus info upgrade

As winter sets in, commuters in London stand huddled at bus stops, hoping the shelters' electronic signs report an accurate "due" arrival time rather than a crappy guess. Those lucky enough to have Transport for London's Countdown system of signs installed at their stops can judge by the minutes flickering on the display …


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  1. GrumpyJoe
    Thumb Up

    Cardiff has something similar

    not the size of this, but I was reasonably impressed with it - can't seem to find much info about when it was launched, but the main site to check via web is

    I use the park and ride - cheaper.

  2. Rentaguru


    West Yorkshire has had this system on all routes for years.

    1. handle


      See the last story about this for answers to that predictable complaint:

  3. D@v3

    could be good

    If someone could use the information from the API(s) and make an app that would show me a map with me, the next bus on my chosen route, and the closest stop that I can reach before the bus gets there. I'd buy it for a buck.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try this

      There's Travel Deluxe on iPhone, might be on android too, I dunno. This will show you in relation to what ever bus route you have chosen, nut sadly not quite where the bus is. May be with the new API that will come later. The developer has just released and upgrade (not just for iOS 5) and he's committed to keeping things working smoothly

      Only works for London though

  4. TRT Silver badge

    Typical. You wait for an outsourcing partner for massive scale public IT infrastructure, then three come along at once.

  5. MikeyD85

    "Accurate" Due

    My bus today was "2 mins" away, "1 min" away, "Due", then disappeared from the face of the earth then 2 (real) minutes later, it was "Due" again. I've seen this countless times. Yes, it's better than nothing, but it certainly ain't gospel!

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      I use the Pubtran app for android which tells me when the bus is supposed to be at the stop rather than when it actually is. It takes its feed from the timetable data adjusted for known service changes, not bus location data. Still very useful for getting around.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done TFL

    That's all!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why does it take YEARS for anything to happen in this god forsaken country?

    I suggested this to my local transport authority years and years ago.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Because ideas that can be summed up in sentence aren't neccesarily cheap and easy to do?

  8. nichobe

    Jury's out

    I shall test this when I am next waiting for my night bus at 4am.

    That's if my smart-phone has juice and Google can manage to find the site.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      And try at 6pm when journey times are less predictable due to the roads being busy.

      At 4am, the roads should be pretty quiet apart from the last of the staggering drunks, and buses /should/ run on time.

      1. HipposRule

        4am what's that? 6pm is my last bus since Somerset cut funding in April.

  9. WaveyDavey

    Rentaguru, Really ?

    Which bit of West Yorkshire's that then?

    I'm in sunny Wakefield, and work in Stanningley, and I've never seen a bus stop with useful information on it. Interesting graffiti, maybe, but no useful data.

    Maybe Leeds town centre, but I think most of West Yorkshire operates on a "we *might* put a bus on this service, if we can be fagged. Then again, we might not".

  10. neonoir

    Already a few iPhone apps doing this

    There are a few using the test api already eg:

  11. Andrew Ducker
    Thumb Up

    The Edinburgh one is fantastic

    I don't bother to check timetables any more - just pick a stop off of the ones bookmarked on my Android app and see what my options are. So handy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We don't check timetables in London either

      They're either missing, lying, or on fire

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Countdown II has been outsourced

    I worked on this and there were at least two other primary contractors that I know of - Trueform (who subcontracted to their RTPI arm, Ferrograph) and ACIS (whom I'm not sure are still involved).

    The project was not without its problems, and has suffered delays, but I'm glad it is being seen as a success.

  13. Tom 80

    It might be a minute or two out sometimes, but is largely very accurate. Not a big deal for regular routes, but late at night in the middle of nowhere, with one bus every 30 minutes, it's invaluable.

  14. Matthew 3

    Oxford has this system too

    And it works very well, with reasonable accuracy. The website isn't the prettiest but it's easy to use and has lots of search options ( If TFL haven't already spoken to them, they should.

  15. Pat 11

    Please let the scrapers carry on

    Been using an Android app which is scraping the data, I do hope they keep the API free. It's awesome, I use it every day, though a few friends have wondered why I have suddenly run off having realised that the bus up the road is the last for 15 minutes. I'd say I spend about 30m a week not hanging around and I get a seat far more often (I know it's worth waiting for the next, empty one if it's 1 minute out)

  16. Chris King

    Oxford, Cardiff, Bristol and a whole bunch of other cities...

    ...use ACIS, or VIX as they are now.

    When it works, it's great, but I'm seeing "The system is currently unavailable. Please try again later" far too often these days. It's the public transport's answer to the Fail Whale.

  17. handle
    Thumb Up

    Still using OpenStreetMap

    Nice to see some of my mapping efforts appearing on it!

  18. Ben 5

    Please stop...

    ...saying that town 'x' has a similar system to this. So what? The fact is that this is on a *much* bigger scale and massively more difficult to deliver on. As the article points out, it's piss easy to deliver a system out in the country or in a small town. However, to do the same on a huge network with the environment of London is a reasonably impressive feat, and I've not heard of anything on a similar scale and difficulty anywhere else in the world.

    I only wish it had come earlier - but at least it's here ahead of the fabled October snow :-) I find it reasonably accurate; if only it could predict the odd customer still paying by cash and delaying the bus for a minute :-)

  19. Simon Rockman

    All that typing

    They should put QR codes on posters or the timetables so that you can be taken to the right page for your bus stop. Then you don't have to "simply enter a postcode, street name, bus route number or bus stop code. "


    1. Lockwood

      I think Stagecoach South have started to QR code their timetables.

      I seem to remember seeing one recently, though that may have been a partnership deal with the ASDA it was outside of, and part of their initiative rather than Stagecoach's. (I didn't try blipping it to see what'd happen)

    2. lyceus

      Now that is a good idea!

  20. Lon Bailey
    Thumb Up

    London Transport Bus times on the phone

    You can get this data from TfL already on the phone via a beta for the last month or so- quite accurate unless it is the first stop and the driver did not leave on time. Once the buses are on the road, you can track bus movements for each stop. And you can store your bus stops as favourites as well. Link is

  21. Carl Partridge

    Not scraping (but drowning) - London Bus Checker


    Great story - and three cheers to TfL for opening up the data, something a lot of publically funded companies would do well to imitate. They still seem to be taking the site/API down a lot for "maintenance" but it's so new that you'd expect teething problems.

    Just to say that not all apps screen-scrape: for example, my iPhone app London Bus Checker (plug alert, currently #1 travel app in App Store) uses the same API as TfL's own mobile and web apps. In fact, it was El Reg's very own story on the bus countdown site that prompted me to write it in the first place! for those interested.

    Secondly, for those apps that do screen scrape, is it really "not allowed"? I checked the TfL Terms and Conditions, and they specifically exclude certain areas of their website from screen scraping, but the bus arrivals site is not one of those areas. See


  22. WorsleyNick
    Thumb Up

    Not sure why anyone would want to use an ap, the system is easy to use. SMS to 87287, a unique five digit number, which is posted on most bus stops (admitidly not all bus stops :-( ) and usually a list of buses, their destinations and ETA comes back within a minute. Well impressed.

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