MyRailLite is dead. Long live MyRailLite.

picture-28Here in the UK we are not blessed with a rail service that is reliable. Oh the rail operators will probably trot out statistics that say 90%+ this and 95%+ that, but the reality is that out of the last twelve rail journeys I have undertaken, no less than six have been late – the most recent example being a train I expected to catch at 09:58 and which actually turned up at 10:11.

For this reason, an iPhone application that helps me with knowing live arrival and departure times for my chosen station is an absolute godsend, as it is for many tens of thousands of iPhone owning rail commuters. It’s the ideal application on the ideal platform (excuse the pun!). So, I was really chuffed when I downloaded MyRailLite from the iTune App Store last summer. It was exactly what I needed and what’s more – it was FREE! The developer used the live rail data feed that is available here in the UK to create a really useful application that he did not profit from.

Now let’s wind the clock forward to March 2009 and to the release of National Rail’s own iPhone application that does pretty much exactly the same thing. There is one major difference however. Where MyRailLite was FREE, the National Rail app costs a whopping £4.99! So, who’s going to pay £4.99 for something they can get for free? Well, no-one in their right mind of course.

Now what may not be immediately apparent is that in order to use the live data feed you need a ‘license’, and I guess MyRailLite was duly licensed. However, what I’m hearing is that the license was due for renewal at the end of March 2009 and National Rail said “No”. After all, with a free application offering most of the same functionality, how would they sell their own for £4.99 a go? So in one fell swoop they rendered the competition useless. There is another live rail arrivals/departures application on the iPhone and it has already been withdrawn from the App Store even though unlike MyRailLite it still works as of March 31st 2009. Presumably their license will also expire at some point and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if National Rail don’t allow them to renew either.

It’s a sad day when a large company seems to block a free service in an attempt to force me to use their own paid for service instead.

Note, I am not linking to the National Rail website, nor am I using any of their logos on this blog entry and that is intentional.