Feeds

Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner

Reinventing the wheel

High performance access to file storage

The government has wasted millions of pounds setting up a sub-optimal journey planner for cyclists – when an online system set up by enthusiasts provides wider coverage and more functionality at a fraction of the cost incurred by the Department for Transport (DfT).

On the day that Alistair Darling and would-be Chancellor George Osborne locked horns on the issue of just how much scope there is for cuts in government budgets, that is the accusation levelled by cycling activist and Reg reader Richard Taylor.

The actual sums involved in this instance are trivial by comparison to overall government spend. However, Mr Taylor believes that this case highlights the accusation levelled by Tom Steinberg, Director of MySociety, that the Civil Service is still a long way from understanding how to get the best out of the internet, and officially-inspired IT projects therefore compete with perfectly adequate and popular end-user devised solutions, rather than collaborating with them.

On his personal website Mr Taylor explains how a free online cycle route planner has been available in Cambridge since the Cambridge Cycling Campaign Journey Planner was launched in 2006. This system then mutated into CycleStreets, a nationwide project, which provides users with suggestions for cycle friendly routes and allows them to choose for either an "unhurried" or "quick" ride. The cost of this scheme, in terms of central government funding, was a few thousand pounds (around £5,000 to £6,000).

In 2009, the Department of Transport launched a service via its transportdirect.info website, enabling people to find cycle friendly routes in eighteen specific areas of the UK. The government website only covers a small handful of selected locations, while CycleStreets covers the whole of the UK, subject to restrictions set by the quality of Open Street Map data for a given area. CycleStreets provides additional function not available through the official option, including integration with a national photomap which allows people to see photos taken along the route. The site also integrates with Google Earth.

The cost of work on the government site to date, according to a freedom of information request submitted via the whatdotheyknow website is £2,383,739, with plans currently under way to spend a further £400,000 on adapting what has been produced to provide a route planner for a Cycling for Schools programme.

We have asked the DfT for a response to the accusation that they have been profligate with public funds, but due to the strictures of election reporting they are not allowed to answer our questions for at least a month.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: "News that Labour have spent millions replicating a service that cycling enthusiasts provide at a fraction of the price will come as a surprise to no one. Instead of providing the data and information that could help people to set up these kinds of websites, they seem to think government always knows best, even if it costs the taxpayer millions to give people something they can do better themselves." At time of writing, we have received no comment from the Labour Party.

Taylor has his own views as to why such problems arise. However, the bottom line, according to his own analysis, is that the government ought to stick to doing what it does best, which includes gathering and disseminating data. However, where end-users have already put in the ground work, central IT should make use of what has already been done, rather than try to reinvent the wheel. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.