East Midlands Railway has successfully innovated around social distancing guidelines in order to deliver two new trains into the EMR fleet.
After having to previously halt driver training due to Covid-19, their driver training programme continued back in August and since then EMR has aimed to train four drivers per week on Class 170s at both Derby and Nottingham, with an additional four drivers on Class 180s at Derby.
The latter allowing the first of the Class 180s to enter service, as planned, on Monday 14th December.
New agreements had to be created within the EMR union colleagues to ensure training could be delivered safely around social distancing.
EMR has never before attempted to train so many drivers on different fleets, across multiple locations at the same time, but they have managed to do so, whilst also adapting to the restrictions put in place by Covid-19.
Typically, driver training entails more than one person in a confined driver cab for a lengthy period of time. To keep the teams safe during the outbreak, all of the ‘close contact’ training required Drivers to enter into Covid-secure training bubbles. Every Instructor and Trainee takes a Covid-19 test every week, prior to training.
EMR Driver Instructors, Driver Managers and the Learning & Development team created training materials based on information gathered from other train operating companies. This involved bringing in an instructor from Hull Trains for training on the Class 180 trains and for the Class 170 units, EMR looked to its sister train operator, ScotRail for support with the training programme.
EMR’s Driver Instructor teams have worked tenaciously to provide high quality, consistent training for all of the Drivers. The courses deliver two new traction types across four locations to recover time lost due to Covid-19. EMR Mainline drivers at Nottingham, alongside Depot drivers from Eastcroft, have learned Class 170 units, whilst Mainline drivers at Derby and Depot drivers at Etches Park have learned both Class 170 and Class 180’s.
The Class 170 project saw 3 trains enter passenger service yesterday (14 Dec), alongside the timetable change, serving the Robin Hood Line. The training programme will continue until August 2021, when EMR will have trained over 265 Drivers on the new fleet across four locations.
The Class 180’s also entered into service yesterday on the Midland Mainline and are operating on EMR’s Intercity route. The 180s will be in service until EMR’s new Aurora fleet will be introduced in 2023.
Chris Fairclough, Driver Depot Manager for Nottingham, Boston, Lincoln and Norwich EMR, said: “The Driver Training Programme had to be adapted quickly due to Covid-19. With social distancing measures in place, we have worked harder than ever to ensure we could train as many drivers in the safest and quickest way possible.
“Safety is always kept at the forefront of our operations and everyone has worked tirelessly to ensure that is the case.
“With new style trains coming into use, which requires our drivers to re-train on the new models, the pressure has been on to learn everything about how the new fleet operates; from rules and regulations to fire safety, it has not been easy, but I am incredibly proud of all the work that has gone into the Driver Training Programme.”
Image: East Midlands Railway