Feeds

Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner

Reinventing the wheel

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.