Public data

  • Description
    • What is public data?
      Public data involves the release of certain information to third parties. The conditions under which this information is supplied is described in the licences and terms of use, and the restrictions for reuse are minimised.
    • What exactly is involved with public data at SNCB?

      By releasing details of the planned schedules, interested parties are able to develop their own applications allowing users to plan their journeys by train.

      Data is supplied as GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification), a common format for public transport timetables.

    • Who is able to use SNCB public data?

      Any interested partner may make use of the planned timetables. You simply need to confirm that you agree with our standard licence agreement.

  • Procedure
    • What procedure needs to be followed in order to receive SNCB public data?
    • Why do I have to sign an agreement?

      The Open Data Law of 4 May 2016 states that standard licences for data re-use shall be defined by Royal Decree and that, "if for legal, technical or other well-founded reasons, the use of standard licences is not possible, special licences may be imposed".

      SNCB believes that the reuse of its timetable data must be subject to guarantees that require a special licence banning the redistribution of raw data and imposing guidelines relating to its reuse. This licence shall be fee-free.

      Users who wish to obtain timetable data must request it at www.thetrain.be

      The justifications for this choice of licence are as follows:

      • Concern for quality and reliability

      SNCB wishes to ensure a minimum data quality in order to prevent fraud and the misuse of compensation systems, but also because in the eyes of the public, it is SNCB's responsibility to respond to any problem relating to timetable data.

      Furthermore, the processing of raw data by those who are not trained in the transport industry could result in various interpretations that do not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground or the context of a piece of data. Misinterpretations of timetable data may damage SNCB's image.

      By banning the redistribution of raw data, SNCB ensures that it knows all the sources of structured data made available to the public and that it can conduct useful checks and give appropriate answers to the questions asked. By knowing all the people or entities who have access to the raw data, SNCB can also verify that reuse is honest and serious.

      On the other hand, SNCB wants to allow the development of APIs based on the raw data.

      • Concern for IT security

      The challenge of the IT security of timetable data focuses on the particularly important impact that a failure in the IT system could have for all people and entities using the timetable information via the Open Data servers. Such a failure could occur due to the improper use (intentional or not) of the service, or even a rail crisis resulting in mass requests and an increased load on the computer servers.

      By imposing guidelines on how the data is reused (good practices related to the GTFS format) and monitoring its usage by people who have requested its reuse, SNCB wants to maximise the reliability and availability of all timetable data.

      • Concern for maintaining the service

      By knowing the people who are accessing its data, SNCB can communicate planned service interventions or changes to the service to them.

  • Content
    • Is real-time info available as well?

      Yes, in addition to planned schedules, real-time data is also offered via our own feed.

    • Is there also public data with info about the stations?

      NO, the GTFS data set only contains timetable information.

    • Is there also public data with network maps?

      NO, the GTFS data set only contains timetable information.

    • Is there also public data for sales?

      NO, but partners can of course link their own applications to the SNCB website in order to conduct sales activities.

    • Is SNCB public data available in the form of an API?

      SNCB supplies data as GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification), a common format for public transport timetables. This GTFS feed allows SNCB to offer the data to those third parties wanting to develop their own applications. A GTFS feed is not an API. Data is supplied via a web URL. Developers can collect the data and use it for their activities, without any further interaction between the supplier and the developer being necessary. With an API there is constant communication between the software programs on either side.

    • Is the SNCB data 100% reliable?

      Data supplied by SNCB to its partners is 100% identical to the data used by SNCB for its own travel applications. Naturally, each partner has its own journey planner and therefore also its own search engine and algorithm. This means that not every journey planner will display the same travel advice. The quality of the timetable displayed is therefore also the responsibility of each individual partner.

    • Is SNCB responsible for this data?

      SNCB is responsible for the raw data provided to the partner in the GTFS file. The partner is responsible for operating its own user applications effectively.

    • What happens if there are errors in this data?

      Errors in the data need to be reported to the partner in question. The partner needs to check whether it genuinely concerns an error in the data. If so, the partner should contact SNCB to highlight the problem.

    • Does SNCB public data also include details of services relating to foreign routes or trains?

      NO. The data set only contains details related to SNCB timetables. This includes IC trains travelling to Amsterdam.

      Developers wishing to work with timetables concerning other operators should contact the respective operator(s) directly and ask them if they can also supply public data. 

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