VIRGIN Trains unveiled three driver simulators when its Crewe training centre was officially opened on March 23.

The £2m simulators are based on real train cabs, with all controls fully functional. The two Voyager diesel simulators were supplied by Oktal Technirail, and a Pendolino tilting train simulator by Corys. Each has a control room from where an operator can set the route and create incidents. Possible scenarios include low adhesion conditions, low visibility through fog or at night, trespassers, detonators, signals turning to red, and equipment failure. Any of the devices in the cab, from control to safety systems, can be made non-operational. The controller is able to use staff and passenger voice communication systems to contact, and distract, the driver.

The simulators are being used in Virgin’s Millennium driver training programme, and will also be used by drivers converting to the new trains. The simulators will be used in biannual assessments of driving technique, and to give training in defensive driving.

Use of the simulators means a real train does not have to be withdrawn from revenue service for training. It also allows events such as lineside fires and catenary failure to be simulated which could not be done on a working railway.

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Oktal, France 145, Corys, France 146