Railway operating company makes investment in simulation technology for crew training
A new multi-million-pound investment in advanced simulation technology by railway operating company, Northern will be the mainstay of their crew training activities that will take place at the organisation’s training academies from 2025.
Northern, the second largest train operator in the country, went into partnership with Poland-based simulation specialist company, “SIM Factor”, from whom Northern ordered six of its full immersion motion platform simulators where train crews of the future will earn their stripes.
The simulators, which will provide driver, conductor and other rail apprentices with a full working cab environment, will also feature 400 miles of real track footage from the company’s network across Northern England that serves around 500 stations.
As well as the cab environment, the academy will also feature a passenger cabin simulator for training operational staff on door operation, dispatch and emergency evacuation – and four training classrooms with a total of 24 static replicas of the driver’s cab for additional training.
Motion Platform Simulation
Northern will be the first train operator in the UK to use motion platform simulators and is currently identifying new locations in Leeds and Manchester for its training academies that can house simulators of this size.
They are expected to be delivered at the end of 2024, with the first apprentices stepping aboard in early 2025.
According to Lisa Leighton of Northern, there are around 3,500 drivers and conductors based across the company’s network with approximately 400 new starters being recruited into these crucial roles every year.
“They’re the backbone of our operation and it’s vital we invest in facilities to train them to the highest standard before they enter the real-world environment,” says Leighton.
As an Ofsted recognised ‘Main Provider’ of apprenticeships, Northern is also able offer its training services to other train operators and rail industry organisations.
SIM Factor already has experience in delivering training systems to the railway industry and currently provides simulation systems to Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and the Baltic countries.
The company’s products are also used in the first European centre for examining train driver candidates as part of the national licensing process for operating railway vehicles.
Its full immersion system has an ultralight aluminium frame as its basis for building replicas of vehicle cabins, which have all the elements such as controls, instruments and displays as found in the real cabin. The 180-degree view enables the simulation of side windows together with virtual side mirrors.
It is mounted on a six degree of freedom motion platform, which is used to model the physics of the vehicle and all the forces which affect the train driver’s cabin while driving and during atypical events such as derailments.
The simulation includes a sound system enabling realistic rendering of sounds and vehicle surroundings as well as motion and vibration to enable the highest possible immersive experience.