When Transport for London (TfL) announced back in 2010 that it was opening its bus and London Underground data for developers to access, a steady stream of apps began to emerge from the developer underworld, as we’ve seen already.

There’s BusIt London, the mobile-friendly Web app, Bus Guru which gives you live bus times and optimum routes, while TubeTap lets delayed commuters claim refunds automatically. Then a couple of weeks back we brought you Commuter, bringing us a step closer towards the ultimate public transport app.

Now, National Rail Enquiries has launched its own official mobile app for Android and iOS, letting travelers access real-time information on overground rail transport in England, Scotland and Wales.

The app features most of National Rail Enquiries’ online tools, such as a real-time journey planner and live departure boards, reeling in up-to-the-minute information about disruptions and stations. Customers can also access relevant station information through the journey planner which includes links to more detailed information on National Rail Enquiries’ mobile website.

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Two particularly notable features of the app include push notifications, which automatically alert passengers of any delays or changes to scheduled services, and the ability to plan a journey with real-time data and check live departure boards without the need for an Internet connection. And it’s probably also worth noting that the app features a pretty useful ‘wake me up alarm’, alerting passengers to their final destination.

Users also have the option to view results by destination or origin, and they can monitor the live progress of each train service if they wish.

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NRE  & Data Licensing

National Rail Enquiries (NRE) was set up by train companies after privatization in the 1990s, and it’s run and paid for by them collectively. It’s now the main source of rail information in Britain, once relying on its telephone service to dish out travel-related information to the public, before becoming one of the busiest transport websites.

At the heart of all this is Darwin, a software application providing passengers with real time information on train services. This application pulls in rail industry data, much of it raw, from a range of sources, and then combines and interprets it to make it usable to passengers. The service has seen the total number of enquiries it handles increase fourfold to over 250 million a year, from 16 million customers.

NRE licenses developers who want to use its processed data, and more than 123 third party licences have been issued thus far, including 47 mobile apps across ten platforms. Now, with the introduction of a dedicated National Rail Enquiries app, developers have been advised that they are no longer able to use the National Rail logo to identify their app in the app stores, though the data itself will remain the same. NRE says this is primarily to avoid customer confusion over brand identification.

“Development and innovation are at the forefront of all we do at National Rail Enquiries, and we are confident that this app will help the growing number of smartphone users to quickly and easily access up-to-date information about train services while on the move,” says Chris Scoggins, Chief Executive of National Rail Enquiries. “Innovation in the mobile market continues to gather pace, and we are delighted to offer customers the choice of a free app that provides relevant, real time information about UK train journeys.”

Whilst the app itself is free, it will include ads. You can, however, choose to upgrade to an ad-free version for £4.99.

➤ National Rail Enquiries: Android | iOS