ScotRail has invested heavily in driver training and as part of this, two advanced driver simulators have been installed in the Glasgow Simulator Centre. All drivers employed by the company are required to undergo re-assessment every two years.
The console of the simulator used by the trainer.
© John Fender, 2012
The full cab simulators were supplied by Sydec, the Australian based specialist simulator supplier and cost some £750,000. The simulators have been in use since April 2006 and enable drivers to be assessed on a wide variety of scenarios that they could encounter in real life.
Drivers will have an assessment plan and specific scenarios can last for anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Drivers are given a journey to complete and the scenarios will be part of that journey. All of these scenarios have been developed to test skill and knowledge and are scripted so that each time the scenario is run, it will be the same, enabling auditing of the training to be undertaken.
Entering the simulator, which is identical to the cab of the real train, one is struck by the realism and the computer graphics are so realistic that after a very short time indeed, you forget you are sitting in the simulator. Driving the train is identical to the real thing and drivers have to do exactly what they would do in reality.
The view from the cab - with train controls.
© John Fender, 2012
The difference is that the trainer can adjust the weather conditions, the time of day or night and replicate faults with the train to test the drivers abilities. Starting the engines sounds exactly like the real thing and although many of the he stations have fictitious names, they are based on real stations.
Other trains can also be seen and during this session a number of Virgin's Voyagers were seen passing on the other track. Once the train has moved off, the handling is exactly the same as the real thing and probably the hardest part is judging the braking to ensure that you stop at the correct point in a station.
The trainer sits at a console where the trainee's progress can be monitored and the trainer can monitor the position of the controls and also has a view of the track ahead, as seen by the driver. From the console, the trainer can adjust the conditions and replicate the unexpected problems that a driver may encounter.
The simulator also has a facility enabling drivers to replicate dealing with problems that require them to leave the cab, for example, to check on a problem with the air suspension or to reset a passenger door.
The Scottish Region would like to thank ScotRail and especially the centre manager for the detailed explanation of the simulator and guidance as members had a go at train driving!
Report and photographs by John Fender.
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