Rail Data Council
The Rail Data Council was set up in late 2019 to bring together diverse interests to better coordinate open access to the UK’s rail data.
Through monthly meetings and delivery initiatives the Council is setting the bar for defining new standards for data use and access, data value and data innovation and skills. The Council works with RSSB’s DISIC group to confirm quality and standards for rail data across Great Britain.
The Rail Data Council’s vision is to:
Drive value in rail industry growth, efficiency and customer service through coordinated access to shareable data via an ecosystem of federated APIs and widespread adoption of advanced data analytics
The Council was formed in Q4 2019 to align the work involved in delivering the commitments to two parallel industry-wide agreements around data. This intervention was designed to increase pace and avoid overlaps or conflict between data related projects. They were the Joint Rail Data Action Plan, agreed by RDG on behalf of the industry and the Rail Minister, and the data workstream of the Rail Sector Deal, agreed by the Rail Minister and the Rail Supply Group. Since the publication of the updated Rail Technical Strategy in October 2020, the Council also includes oversight of the work taking place to deliver the Rail Technical Strategy: Data Driven theme.
The council is formally a sub-committee of RDG, reporting into RDG’s Reform Board. It is unusual for RDG’s committees in that it has representation from a wide group of stakeholders representing each of its ‘commissioning groups’, and specifically including the Department for Transport.
Structure and workstreams
To help deliver its vision and ensure the aims of the earlier initiatives are delivered, the Council defined four workstreams:
The Council has two levels of regular governance:
- The Executive - which is formed of the Chair and each of the workstream leads. This meets every two months.
- The full Council - which has representatives of each of the 'commissioning' organisations, including: TOCs, Network Rail, Rail Supply Group, UKRRIN, and DfT. A representative from RSSB attends and contributes to our meetings together with other RDG staff. RDG provides the secretariat for the meetings. The full Council meets in alternate months of the Council Exec.
James Bain, CEO Worldline UK, was appointed as Chair of the Council, representing the Rail Supply Group. James chairs both the full council and the RDC Executive.
The workstreams are:
- Data use and access - led by Simon Moorhead (RDG)
- Data standards and quality - led by Karl Butler-Garnham (Network Rail) and aligning to RSSB’s DISIC committee.
- Better value from data - led by Ian McLaren (GTR)
- Innovation, culture and skills - led by John Easton (UKRRIN)
The full Council members are: James Bain (Worldline, representing the Rail Supply Group), Aidan Hancock (Network Rail), Kanwar Brar (Go Ahead group), Hugh Clancy (First Group), Margaret Shaw (Department for Transport), Simon Moorhead (RDG), Karl Butler-Garnham (Network Rail), Ian McLaren (Govia Thameslink Railway), John Easton (UKRRIN), Liz Davies (RSSB).
Two current initiatives are described below and will be added to as the Council’s programme of work grows.
Rail Data Marketplace
This service will promote the use of accessible data across the industry by making it easy for data providers to offer their data services to the industry, and making it easy for data consumers to find, test and sign-up to use these data services.
The Rail Data Marketplace is essentially a “intermediary” between provider and B2B data consumer, but adding value by using simple and repeatable interfaces, accessible test data, common security and access controls, and standard commercial or licence agreements. To be clear, this is not copying data into a data warehouse or data lake, but deploying standard APIs to allow users to connect to original data sources.
We expect this service to significantly simplify access to data for existing and new participants in the industry, with consequent benefits to speed, cost and customer experience. The timing of this work is positive as it can support Operators’ ERMA targets for open data and collaboration and an increased interest in industry suppliers in driving value from data.
The project, commencing in early 2021, will confirm the detailed proposition, build the technology and operating model (aligned with existing RDG services), and implement the first open data services.
(For clarity, we think of “open” meaning accessible, not necessarily “free”). In the longer term our intent is to ensure that this service is self-funding through cost recovery from participants.
RDG is commissioned as the delivery body for this work. Industry investment in data has been matched by the DfT’s commitment through the Rail Sector deal to fund the set up and early operation of the Rail Data Marketplace.
Creating a Framework for Rail Data
The Data council has commissioned a study by a third-party legal data specialist to propose a framework for industry data. This work is currently underway and the consultancy is carrying out interviews with a wide range of industry stakeholders.
The aim is to develop a simple set of classifications to allow data providers and users to codify their access and supporting agreements. This is intended to significantly speed up the process of agreeing the scope and terms of any data use licenses and to avoid where possible bespoke agreements between parties which are time-consuming and sometimes unnecessarily complex.
The impact should be to make data sharing simpler and open data easier to access, contract and use in downstream services or applications. The work becomes an important contributor to opening up rail to new suppliers and new customer propositions.
We expect this initiative to have concluded its recommendations and have them agreed within the Rail Data council for use within the initial implementation of the Rail Data Marketplace.