As Greater Anglia starts to receive the first of its new Class 720 Bombardier Aventra electric trains, the twelve experienced train drivers who will be test driving them have just started their initial training, using hi-tech simulators.
Two simulators have been supplied by Derby-based Oktal Sydac and are now installed at Greater Anglia’s training academy in Stratford.
The simulators, which are full-sized replicas of the train cabs, will enable drivers to learn how to use the new trains’ hi-tech functions These include an improved train control management system – the “brain” of the train which allows the driver to interact with the train’s systems for the most efficient performance – and the train protection and warning system safety.
Initially, the simulators have been programmed with three routes, from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport, Colchester and Southend Victoria. Views of the track and the surrounding area are displayed on high-resolution screens in front of the driver, just as if he or she was looking out of the windscreen.
To further test the drivers, various weather conditions can be displayed, from snow to high winds, and even cows on the line can be simulated, all at the press of a button.
Drivers must complete a three-day course – a mixture of classroom learning and practical experience on the simulator – before they are able to complete their training on the real thing, still under the supervision of a driver instructor for a further two days.
Training has already started, with social distancing requiring the use of two classrooms and only allowing one person in the simulator at a time.
Clive Bastin, Greater Anglia’s senior driver training and simulator manager, said: “The new trains are much more hi-tech than our existing fleet.
“During the simulator training, we make sure that drivers are able to use all the train’s different functions and features, so that they will be confident in any situation they might face when driving a real train.
“These new trains are great improvement for customers – but they’re also better for drivers, with superior acceleration and braking.”
Mark Simpson, business development manager of Oktal Sydac, supplier of the simulators, commented: “Oktal Sydac is proud to have worked with Abellio Greater Anglia and Bombardier to supply two full cab simulators for driver training.
“Our teams in Derby, Toulouse, Pune and Adelaide have come together to deliver our highest spec, most state-of-the-art simulators in our 30 year history and we are pleased to add these to our existing estate of over 700 rail, tram and road simulators around the world.
“For this project, we have incorporated our latest innovations, including the use of space saving NUC computers and our enhanced CGI-build capabilities to produce two high-fidelity replicas of the Bombardier cab and an ultra-realistic re-creation of three main Greater Anglia routes, including the highly complex Liverpool Street Station.
“A key driver to the success of this major project has been the smooth collaboration between the Greater Anglia, Bombardier and Oktal Sydac teams across four different countries and time zones, and we look forward to continuing this partnership for years to come.”
Bombardier’s communications director Will Tanner added; “Starting driver training on these hi-tech simulators is another great step forward as we move closer to passenger service.
Training Greater Anglia’s drivers on our new British-built trains in this way is, of course, even more useful with social distancing measures in place.”
The new commuter trains will provide services into Liverpool Street from Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Ipswich. In total, about 600 experienced drivers will be trained to drive the new trains, which will replace all of Greater Anglia’s old electric trains on these routes.
Greater Anglia has ordered 111 new five and ten carriage trains from Bombardier, procured and financed by Angel Trains. All are longer than the trains they will replace, with more seats, plug and USB points, air conditioning combined with underfloor heating, improved passenger information screens and better accessibility features.
The new trains are due to start to go into passenger service later this year. Production at Bombardier’s Derby factory was halted for a few weeks due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) but has now re-started. Just under 50 of the five-carriage trains have already been built.