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Rail Data Marketplace platform set for beta launch in November


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is planning to launch a private beta version of the Rail Data Marketplace (RDM) – a digital platform for data on the industry – later this year.

Representatives of the industry body – which includes executives from Network Rail and the Department for Transport’s OLR Holdings on its board – told the DataConnect conference yesterday that a prototype has now been built and it hopes to launch the private beta in November.

There are plans for a public beta in March of next year and ambitions for a full go live during the autumn.

Programme lead Jez Smith told the conference the platform has been built with development partner Tata Consultancy Services on Google Apigee and while it is not bound by the Government Digital Service’s design standards it has stayed close to them.

He said it is aimed at overcoming some of the barriers to the sharing of data within the industry. Currently the data is highly fragmented, with different formats, language and variable quality.

RDG believes that opening up and making data easier to share will support operations, make the industry more efficient, stimulate innovation and encourage the development of cross-modal public transport.

Simplification and reducing friction

“The Rail Data Marketplace aims to simplify data, opening up the wider user base via a single access point. It’s reducing the friction between the data publisher and the data consumer,” Smith said.

He added: “We’re not trying to create a data lake but give access to data sources, and it’s a business-to-business service rather than one aimed at passengers.”

The RDM will be open to the industry, app developers, technology firms and academia to support planning and innovation on the railways.

Smith said that, although the default approach will be for open data, RDG recognises that some publishers will want to make some data available at a price, and the platform will include mechanisms to control the licence and terms under which it is published.

“We want to make participation attractive, which means a balance of open and chargeable data, simplifying the agreement of a licence, making the platform cost neutral by May 2024, providng information for users to assess the value of data and letting publishers set pricing to see how the market performs.”

Features of the platform will include a catalogue of available data, content management, licence management, API management, billing and invoicing, an analysis capability and a community forum for users.

Control for publishers

Commercial lead for the project Clare Morrisey said data publishers and consumers would have to agree to the RDM’s terms and conditions, but the data sharing agreement would be between one of each side. A publisher would have to sign a declaration of there being no data that could identify individuals and a privacy policy, then would then have the power to control the data, licensing and who has access.

“It would all flow down to the licence builder within the platform to populate schedules within the licence builder.” She said.

Morrisey added that there is a target of getting data publishers to use a standardised licence for 80% of the time but they will be able to upload their own contracts if desired.

“Our thoughts are that if it would get to 80% open data and 20% chargeable that would make it cost-neutral,” she said.

Amended 30.9.22 am. Platform built on Google Apigee not Azure.

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