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Belgian Minister of Digital Agenda: train table data to be open

Author: Adrian Offerman

Alexander De Croo, Belgium Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services, will force the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS/SNCB) to make its timetable information available as open data. This will allow software developers to create alternatives to the official app.

The Minister is currently working together with Theo Francken, the Belgian Secretary of State for Administrative Simplification, on a federal open data strategy and a law that will compel public agencies to make all of their data publicly available for re-use, unless there are legal reasons — i.e. concerning privacy and security — that prevent this. The legislation will implement Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, also known as the PSI Directive.

Beer belly

The Minister's announcement was prompted by the fact that NMBS/SNCB recently killed the RailTime route planner to push its official app and website. Although the railway company promised to improve the functionality of the NMBS app, according to the user community the RailTime app was much better than what is currently available. One comment reads It feels like trading in a six pack for a beer belly.

Currently, the Belgian time tables are not publicly available, leading to the odd situation where applications like Google Maps for Belgium only provide routes using busses, trams and subways.

Dutch Chamber of Commerce

This story is not unlike the problems we described earlier with regard to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK). A new Trade Register Law may effectively forbid the re-use of the register data, which will be the end of the openkvk portal providing additional functionality to the official KvK site.