By Arun Kumar Das
Train drivers will undergo advanced training on digital crew simulation systems with 3D technology to improve their alertness and enhance safety in train operations.
With the modernisation of training facilities and skill development of crew becoming a major focus area, Indian Railways has decided to equip all divisions with advanced simulators at an estimated cost of Rs 350 crore (close to $54 million) for training loco pilots.
A provision for advanced simulators has been made under Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh for providing simulator-based training of crew across Indian Railways in the budget for 2018-19.
Locomotive pilots and assistant locomotive pilots are key frontline staff of the Railways and play a crucial role in train operations and safety.
Globally, simulator-based training is emerging as a critical component of crew training as this helps improve driving proficiency by providing training in a real-life environment and exposing trainees to unusual occurrences.
Over 12,000 electric and diesel locomotives daily run on the 66,000 km network across the country. There are about 86,000 train drivers in the Railways.
"The aim is to enhance the learning experience of the crew and improve their productivity and driving skills with regard to aspects like train dynamics and handling, dealing with unusual and hazardous events, route learning, economical fuel efficient driving and safe operations," a senior Railway Ministry official said.
Currently there are seven electric and nine diesel loco simulators in operation in different divisions while 17 more electric and diesel cab simulators are in the process of induction.
"It has been decided to have advanced simulators in every division so that drivers do not have to travel to other divisions for training," the official said, adding it will save time and improve productivity.
All divisions will now have the facility for simulation-based training for locomotive crew through a mix of full-cab, motion-based simulators, networked desktop simulators and computer graphic imagery of important rail sections.
"We are planning to modernise the crew training infrastructure across the network by extensively using computer modeling, simulation, digital and 3D technologies and interactive knowledge based training and assessment tools," official said.
The Railways had carried out a study of simulator-based training being imparted by operators in the US, France and Spain and it emerged that simulators are extensively used to train crew at various stages like initial induction, promotion and periodic refresher courses.
A comprehensive range of simulation-based training tools are being extensively used by railways worldwide. These tools include full-replica cab simulators with motion (for specific locomotive types), generic driver desk cab simulators (some controls are real while some are on touch screen and can be changed depending on locomotive type) and generic desktop simulators or soft simulators/compact simulators.
Emphasis is also on introducing e-learning cloud-based platforms and self-learning simulation-based training on android platforms, the official said.
Increased hours spent on simulator-based training improves the skill of the crew in train management, handling and brake management -- and dealing with unusual and unsafe events. This helps improve safety in train operations. Further, it also leads to other benefits like reduction in energy bills through efficient driving and also increases the productivity of the crew.
The study further analysed the requirement of simulation-based training keeping in view the global best practices and norms and also the crew training requirements in the coming years keeping in view massive capacity augmentation and the electrification drive.
(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com)