Two very helpful tools for public transport travellers (Or ‘when good design and useful tools collide…’)

TrainTimesAddressI have a confession. I can't drive. I did try to learn once, but realised:

TrainTimesResultsa) I don't like driving


b) I really would rather our world was far less reliant on the car, so I ought to make a start by being less reliant on the car myself.

Which means I spend a lot of time trying to find the best way to get places by public transport. Which isn't always as easy as it should be. However, the are two key tools which I find indispensible, and which I often find myself showing to others. So, I thought I would share them with you too…


The fantastic Mr Mathew Sommerville (behind much MySociety code) has created an accessible Train Times website at

At a glance, you may think its just a slimmed down version of the National Rail website… that is, until you see URLs like:

which will return all the train arriving in London from Leicester at 9am tomorrow.

Simple. But incredibly effective. No more skipping through form after form to plan a journey. One visit to the address bar of the browser and bingo – all the train times you need.

This slide show explains it a little more, as well as having some good tips on getting cheaper trains by splitting journeys.

Transport Direct#2

Sometimes, just sometimes, I can't get where I want to just by train. In such cases I could spend hours struggling with local bus timetables and inadequate bus company websites.

Or I could use the very good, but very under-promoted Transport Direct website at, which is not only a rather nifty Multi-modal journey planner – but which also will tell me how much CO2 my journey is likely to use depending on how I travel.

So, not only can I get places by public transport when others would quail at the thought, but I can feel smug good about the environmental benefits of the extra hour travelling and the lack of circulation in my legs due to somewhat cramped bus seats.

Anyhow. Hopefully these tools will prove useful to others, and I can just point people to this post in future rather than feeling compelled to spend 1/2 an hour raving about them and demonstrating how just fantastically handy they are… although, come to think of it, I could just do that as well…

What is participation anyway?

"Participation is the informed, autonomous and meaningful involvement of a community in influencing decision making and action."

Family Fortunes Top 5 Participation Words

This blog is at least in part about participation – so I really ought to have a definition. I've got a post on the go that explores what I mean by participation in more depth, but lets start with just getting a sentence sorted out for now. Ok – so the sentence above a bit wordy – but I think it captures quite a lot of what I mean by participation. I scribbled this definition down yesterday when I was asked to come up with my top 5 words to describe participation.

Unfortunately that definition gave me at least 7 words:

  • Informed
  • Autonomous
  • Meaningful
  • Community
  • Influence
  • Decision-making
  • Action

But cut down to the 5 I was asked for I ended up with:

  1. Informed
  2. Meaningful
  3. Influence
  4. Decision-making
  5. Action

Perhaps with a little more work I can really get a clear sentence to put across what I mean by participation. But that's a few weeks off – so I'd love to hear from you:

What is your definition of participation? If you had to choose five words to describe participation what would they be?


(In case you'd noticed I've been slightly slower on blogging since the end of August, fear not, Tim's Blog is not dead… just time-constrained and with many posts-in-the-pipeline-held-up-by-philosophising (a common affliction) which should make it here sometime soon…)