The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has released details of the simulator train it's using to equip its drivers with the skills they need from the consequence-free safety of a computer screen. Working in conjunction with Keolis Commuter Services, which operates Massachusetts’ rail system and carries more than 127,000 people a day in the Boston area, the new locomotive simulator lab provides advanced training for engineers and is constructed from the cab of the HSP46 train.
Participants are exposed to “realistic situations” from mid-August, with all drivers undergoing training over the course of 2018. The state-of-the-art train is programmed to exactly replicate the different situations that drivers find themselves in, such as when they’re located in the control car: the last train at the back of the set, rather than the clear view afforded when at the front.
The specially-adapted train has been installed in Keolis’ office in Somerville, Massachusetts’, and makes use of powerful processors and graphics to recreate the exact profile of track infrastructure, platforms, stations and buildings along the network. The HSP46, which entered service on MBTA’s (@MBTA_CR) network in 2014, features controls and features that match what a driver would see on a real train, with a truly authentic experience guaranteed thanks to seat vibrations, realistic sounds and a 360-degree view of the cockpit and surrounding area.
Instructors can adjust the environment to any time of day and also implement different weather conditions including rain, snow and the autumn when leaves and debris create slippery rail conditions, something that was previously only possible in live conditions. As part of this new programme, students will spend 40 hours or more in the simulator that works in conjunction with hands-on training with a supervisor on-board a real train.
MBTA’s general manager, Luis Manuel Ramírez, said that the simulator ordered was fundamental to the operator’s “never-ending commitment” to improving safety. “Embracing technology like this new simulator lab helps us to re-create situations under life-like conditions and will help bring our training modules to the next level,” said Ramírez.
Ryan D. Coholan, the MBTA (@MBTA) chief railroad officer, welcomed the technology and said the investment that would improve safety and training on commuter rail. “Having spent a lot of my railroad career as a locomotive engineer, I can attest to the benefit of having this industry-leading training tool here in Boston.”
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