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01.02.17

The role of simulation in ERTMS training and system design

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 17

Paul Boyle, head of ERTMS at Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), discusses the role of simulation in ERTMS training ahead of this year’s ‘ERTMS and ETCS 2017: The Future of Railway Signalling in the UK’ conference.

Simulation has been in use for a number of years now in the UK rail industry, with many train operators on their second or third generation of simulation. The latest generation of simulators are now developed as the UK prepares for the Digital Railway and the ability to deliver ERTMS Training, with Virgin Trains leading this development. 

At VTEC we have been developing skills and knowledge of ERTMS in our business to ensure we have the capability and understanding of ERTMS, and ensure as a business we fully realise all of the benefits ERTMS can bring to the ECML. 

As part of developing the skills in our business, VTEC has carried out good practice sharing with several other European train operators over several years, including most recently the excellent Digital Railway-led Operational Specialist Training with Arriva Trains Wales. 

One of the key ‘lessons learnt’ we have established as a business was the important role that simulation has to play in preparing rail for the transition to the digital/ERTMS railway of the future. In all of the countries where ERTMS is deployed, all adopters have used simulation to train and develop staff to realise the benefits in safety, performance and operations. 

With the many modes of operation in ERTMS and the variables of DMI (Driver Machine Interface)/Operator interaction, it makes simulation training not just an option but more of an absolute necessity to develop fully competent staff – normal operation of service trains or use of training trains simply cannot replicate these variables.

In 2016 VTEC, along with its simulator partner CORYS, developed and upgraded its Class 91 simulators with ETCS during Project Aura Phase 1. The simulator design is to baseline 3, release 2 specification and the Infrastructure Reference Design for the UK ETCS application. Although our original ‘go live’ date of December 2018 for ECML South has now been delayed, we are using our simulator to develop and maintain the knowledge competence of our project team in operating the ECML under ERTMS. 

We also have the ability to adapt our route on the ECML using the CORYS Track Builder Tool and adjust the braking rate on the train model. We can accurately replicate any ETCS route design, air brake train type and use this to assess the ‘drivability’ of the layout and design.       

We have our fixed train simulators based in London King’s Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh and in autumn 2017 we will be introducing, as a part of Project Aura phase 2, our Virgin Azuma (Class 800/801) Driving Simulators at each of these locations, replacing our Class 43 HST desks. We are also enhancing the instructor interaction with TACTIS functionality. This allows the instructor to interact with the simulator scenario via a tablet device, allowing closer coaching when required. 

As a final piece in the jigsaw we are also deploying ‘laptop’ simulators and SODA (Simulation on Demand Application). These bring our fixed simulators to life in our classroom and briefing rooms, allowing interaction with simulator scenarios via smartscreens and personal tablets. These training systems are an ideal environment to train, assess and refresh skills needed for ERTMS, allowing total interaction and access to functionality such as the ETCS DMI. 

Another product we have developed is our ERTMS Discovery app for the iPad. This app is aimed at introducing the terminology and DMI functionality to the end user, it references the common abbreviations and symbols and explains when and how the functionality is used. We are using this app as a taster as we begin our journey to the Digital Railway. 

Turning the Digital Railway programme into a reality needs belief, industry preparedness and investment. The role of simulation in developing our skills and knowledge of ERTMS is at the heart of this is.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Paul will be speaking alongside colleague Vicki Havron (stakeholder engagement manager at VTEC) at ERTMS and ETCS 2017: The Future of Railway Signalling in the UK on 21–22 March in London. Paul and Vicki will be offering a passenger perspective and TOC update on progress and preparation for ETCS in 2017, and will be joined on the speaker panel by senior representatives from Network Rail, DfT, ORR, Arup and many more. 

You can find more information at: www.ertms-etcs.co.uk, and save 10% on tickets by quoting discount code 319RTM. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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