UK INTER-CITY operator First Great Western is using three simulators representing the cabs of its High Speed Train power cars to provide an ’immersive’ training environment for drivers.

The simulators were jointly supplied by Primary Image, Bentley Systems and EDM in a contract worth over £1m, and will be used to assess how drivers handle emergency situations which could not be replicated on a real train. As the users are already experienced drivers, it was particularly important to get the correct ’look and feel’ to prevent drivers feeling they are in an artificial, and thus more stressful, situation.

The simulators model 250 route-km and 800 track-km of fictional lines typical of different sections of the Great Western network, ranging from a six-track bi-directional station approach, though a 200 km/h main line to a single track branch. There is a total of 700 signals, including semaphores on the branch. Actual locations were not modelled, to avoid giving drivers with experience of a particular area an unfair advantage during assessment. The simulators are intended to provide an experience with which the drivers ’feel comfortable, but do not know’, according to EDM Managing Director Ted Stephens, who predicts that moves towards the regular assessment of drivers will bring a growing market for train simulators in the UK.

The Fabriano image generator from Primary Image is used to display the graphics, which are projected on to a large screen giving drivers a full-height forward view. Marketing Manager Laura Crane believes that in the past railway simulation technology ’has been a bit behind’ the military and aerospace worlds, but this is now changing as operators realise the value of more realistic simulation. Primary Image also has experience of modelling real locations, including 400track-km of the New York subway.

Motion platforms were felt to be unnecessarily expensive for a rail simulator, but the driver’s seat has limited movement to represent starting and stopping or the failure of a power car.

A video camera mounted in the cab allows the driver’s actions to be watched by the instructor and trainees in an adjacent classroom, and they can also see the cab controls and forward view.

The software used was developed from Bentley’s signal location planning and sighting testing packages, which have been used on projects including Thameslink 2000. As well as applying the relevant technical standards to signal layouts, the software can be used to assess the ’drivability’ of proposals. By observing how drivers respond to proposed changes, potential problems with new layouts can be assessed before expensive lineside work is undertaken, allowing ’construction with confidence’. Bentley also produces a range of asset management software, which is in use on the HSL Zuid project in the Netherlands.

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