For some months now, Champs-Libres is working for NMBS/SNCB, the national railway company of Belgium, for reusing OSM data from Belgian stations. NMBS/SNCB has an interest in OSM data for improving some services to travellers, especially regarding accessibility data, and especially for bicycles. Have a look at the wiki page for more insights!
This first diary entry is about the basic data about the Belgian stations, the “stations” themselves and the railway platforms. For reusing OSM data, we need to have a complete and right information about these objects! Next posts will be on mapping the accessibility (steps, footways, elevators, …).
How a railway station is represented in OSM?
There is a long page on the OSM wiki describing how a railway station should be mapped. The French version of the page is even more complete, partly thanks to a long collaboration between OSM and the SNCF.
To summarize, we can say:
- the station is mapped with a single node with railway=station or railway=halt (for the smaller ones)
- the station area can be mapped with a way encompassing the buildings, railway platforms tagged with public_transport=station
- the station should be also mapped with a relation public_transport=stop_area which gathers all objects of the station (platforms, stops, …)
If we want a list of the stations, we can just consider the simplest way of representing stations that is the first one: the node tagged with railway=station.
Are all the stations in Belgium (well) mapped?
Considering the nodes railway=station, the answer is “yes”! All Belgian station are in OSM. You can have a look by running this overpass query: https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/1oY3 (open this link and click on “Run” - the first top left button, and you’ll see the stations on a map)
There are 580 nodes (and 6 ways) tagged with railway=station in Belgium. But we know from NMBS that there are actually 554 railway station in Belgium, so its seems there are even more stations in OSM! How is it possible?
Actually, there are “real” railway stations in Belgium not operated by NMBS: these are mainly old stations still operated for tourism, as the Chemin de fer du Bocq and the Chemin de fer des 3 vallées.
To really identify the NMBS stations, we should add the “operator=NBMS/SNCB” tag where it is missing.
How about mapping the platforms?
The railway platforms are the places where you actually take the train or step down from it. They are mapped with a way and tagged simply with railway=platform. A very important tag to add is the ref=*, which is the numbers of the platforms. The ref is always one or two numbers, that need to be separated by a semicolon “;”, e.g., ref=2;3.
A platform gives access to one or two tracks, typically the platform for the first track (ref=1) only gives access to this first track, while the others platforms (2;3, 4;5, …) give access to 2 tracks.
And how are mapped the train platforms in Belgium?
Mhm not so bad, but some railway platforms are missing, including for big stations! Here’s an overpass query for identifying the existing platforms: https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/1plL.
We managed to identify the missing platforms or where the ref is missing. Here’s a list of stations where there is at least one missing platforms and/or ref compared to NMBS data:
Alken, Antwerpen-Centraal, Archennes, Beauraing, Bellem, Bierges-Walibi, Bierset-Awans, Boitsfort, Leopoldsburg, Bruxelles-Chapelle, Bruxelles-Luxembourg, Bruxelles-Schuman, Callenelle, Carlsbourg, Ciney, Courriere, Couvin, Dolhain-Gileppe, Eupen, Flawinne, Florival, Gastuche, Genval, Glons, Gouvy, Halanzy, Hansbeke, Haren-Sud, Hergenrath, Herstal, Houyet, Jambes, Jette, La Louviere-Sud, Lobbes, Lodelinsart, Londerzeel, Louvain, Maria-Aalter, Merelbeke, Namur, Nivelles, Oostkamp, Ottignies, Philippeville, Pieton, Pont-A-Celles, Poperinge, Profondsart, Quevy, Rhisnes, Rivage, Rixensart, Rochefort-Jemelle, Ronet, Roeselare, Sclessin, Sint-Joris-Weert, Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Tilly, Verviers-Central, Watermael, Yvoir.
This list is quite long, but note that in many cases, only one platform is missing and is not used at the moment.
How can you help?
From this first post, we can see there are some corrections and improvements you can do on the stations and platforms.
- add the “operator=NBMS/SNCB” tag on NMBS stations where this tag is missing. See https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/1vpO, but of course make sure the stations is a real NMBS stations still in use!
- map the platforms where it is missing. You can also check if the platforms of your favourites stations are well-mapped!
And please add the hashtags #nmbs or #sncb to your changeset comments ;-)