Here’s a live map of every train on the UK national rail network to play with

The trains of the Birmingham area this lunchtime. Image: Raildar.

It’s that time of the day again. You’re a bit sleepy after lunch, your motivation has completely collapsed, and you know, in your heart of hearts that you're not getting anything else done today.

But it’s still not quite late enough to start very slowly packing up your stuff or smiling round at your colleagues and optimistically muttering, “Pub?” Basically, you’ve just marking time.

So, here’s a map showing the location of almost every train on Britain’s National Rail network, that should help kill a few hours.

The busy south London rail network.

It’s the work of Raildar (geddit?) which describes itself as “a leading website providing up to date Train information”. If you pay for subscription you can get access to all sorts of exciting things like station dwell times and detailed performance data. You also get a year’s historic performance data which means, I think, that you can check whether the 0903hrs from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly ran on time on a particular day last June.

But if you’re a strictly amateur nerd, there’s lots of free stuff to play with too, including track layout and junction maps...

This is the Euston/King’s Cross area. Click to expand.

On the dynamic version on Raildar's website, you can literally see trains moving around the network.

I find such technical maps pretty hard to read, though (odd, given my obsession with tube maps). So I went straight to the geographically accurate Rail Radar section, which is literally just Google Maps with live train movements superimposed on top. The trains are coloured by operating company; and you can click on them to find out where they’re going and how late they’re running. That includes both local trains:

And long distance ones:

This train just outside Edinburgh is going all the way to Plymouth:

Which is going to take a while:

In some ways, the most fun – for a certain value of fun – is to be found by comparing the big cities. London is pretty crowded with trains:

(This isn’t even all of them – it doesn’t include any of the TfL-run services.)

Here’s the north west at the same scale:

 

Okay, that area has about half London’s population, but that looks like a lot less than half of London’s trains. Although these chaps might have a point:

West Yorkshire looks much the same:

 

And the West of England is practically deserted:

Perhaps the data is incomplete, but at the time I took this screenshot, the map wan’t showing a single train anywhere in the county of Cornwall.

The map is definitely not comprehensive. It doesn’t show routes run by Transport for London – not just the tube, but not TfL Rail, either. (The Overground seems to be on there.)

This sort of makes sense at first glance – this is National Rail, after all – but it does show trains on Merseyrail, so who knows. I was going to write that it shows the Tyne & Wear Metro, too, but on closer inspection I can only find one train, and I’m fairly sure the Tyne & Wear metro has more than one train running right now..

More vexingly, the Anglia Rail lines to Southend seem to be missing, too. There may well be others missing from parts of the country I’m less familiar with, too.

Anyway – even if it isn’t perfect it is a lot of fun, assuming you’re a train nerd, which I’m guessing you probably are. And you can do useful things with it like check how late your train is running, too, if that’s your bag.


It’s good. You should play with it, is what I’m saying here.

(Hat tip: thanks to Sophie Mew for being kind enough to alert me to map’s existence.)

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

All images courtesy of Raildar.

 
 
 
 

The Delhi Metro: How do you build a transport system for 26m people?

Indraprastha station in 2006. Image: Getty.

“Thou hath not played rugby until thou hath tried to get onto a Delhi Metro in rush hour,” a wise Yogi once said.

If you’ve never been on New Delhi’s Metro, your mind might conjure up the the conventional image of Indian trains: tawdry carriages, buckets of sweat, people hanging out of windows and the odd holy cow wandering around for good measure.

Well, no. The Delhi Metro is actually one of the most marvellously sophisticated, affordable, timely, and practical public transportation systems out there. On a 45C day in the Indian summer, many a traveller has shed tears of joy on entering the spacious, air-conditioned carriages.

Above ground, Delhi is a sprawling metropolis of the scariest kind: 26m people, three times the population of London, churn and grind through Delhi itself.

The National Capital Region, an area which includes Delhi and its surrounding satellite cities – now victim of its never-ending urban sprawl – has an estimated population of almost 50m. So how do you tie such a huge population together?

The map; click to expand. Image: Delhi Metro Rail.

Motorised vehicles won’t do it alone. For one, air pollution is a horrific problem in Delhi, as it is across India. Last November, the government declared a state of emergency when the Indian capital was engulfed by a toxic, choking fog so thick that you could barely see several metres in front of you, drawing allusions to the great Victorian fogs in London.

Then there’s Delhi’s famous traffic. Twenty-five years ago, the travel writer William Dalrymple observed that you could reduce the Delhi’s road laws to one simple idea: the largest vehicle always had the right of way. The traffic has tamed somewhat in the 21st century, but the number of vehicles has multiplied again and again, and it’s not uncommon for people to be stuck in four-hour traffic jams when they try to traverse the mighty city.

Enter the Delhi Metro – a huge network of 164 over- and underground stations – and by any account, a titan of civil engineering and administration.

The numbers are simply colossal. Every day the metro serves on average almost 3m people. Annually, it carries around 1bn.

In a country where intercity trains still turn up a day late, the Delhi Metro is extraordinarily timely. On the major lines, trains will come every several minutes. The trains are extraordinary speedy, and you’ll reach your destination in a fraction of the time it would take for you to drive the distance.

The minimum fare is 10 rupees (12p); the maximum fare, to and from the airport, is 50 (60p).

The evolution of the metro. Image: Terramorphus/Wikimedia Commons.

Construction of the metro system began in 1998, with the first section completed in late 2002. Keen to avoid the catastrophic corruption and bureaucratic mismanagement which plagued eastern city of the Kolkata Metro, developers took advice from Hong Kong’s high-tech system There have been several stages of development to add extra lines; more is planned. By 2020, it is hoped that the 135 miles of line will have increased to over 300.  

One thing quite striking about the metro is its women’s only carriages at the rear and the front of the train, marked by pink signs. Sexual assault and harassment has been a horrific problem on Delhi’s transport systems. Women can of course go anywhere on the train – but men who violate the carriage system will have to deal with the scathing anger of the entire pink carriage.


One of the under-discussed impacts of widespread and well-used public transportation systems is their propensity to break down social and class barriers over time. As the London Tube began to be used more and more in early 20th century London, people from completely different walks of life and classes began to brush shoulders and share the same air.

The story is similar in Delhi. The necessity of the metro helps to break down old caste and class divisions. Of course, many elite Delhiites would not be seen dead on the metro, and choose their private chauffeur over brushing shoulders with the common man. But slowly and surely, the times are a changing.

What’s more, the Delhi Metro system is one of the greenest around. Six years ago, the Metro was the first railway system in the world to be awarded carbon credits from the United Nations for helping to reduce pollution in the capital by an estimated 640,000 tonnes every year.  

All praises sung and said, however, at peak times it’s less mind the gap and more mind your ribs – as a fifth of humanity seems to try to get on and off the train at once.

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