Feeds

Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner

Reinventing the wheel

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC
Top beaks slam bundled OS as 'commercial policy of forced distribution'
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
'Serious flaws in the Vertigan report' says broadband boffin
Report 'fails reality test' , is 'simply wrong' and offers ''convenient' justification for FTTN says Rod Tucker
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.