RCTS Visit to GWR Operations Training & Development Centre
Wednesday 5th April 2017
Thanks to Stuart Hicks, a party of 10 (RCTS with some BLS members) was met at Reading West station by John Beeney, GWR Simulator Manager, who took them under the recently reconstructed Cow Lane Bridge. This location is often mentioned on local radio travel news (a single lane road, with bidirectional traffic light control under the main line that waits rebuilding). The GWR 'Centre' is one of the few remaining buildings in the Reading Triangle after construction of the Reading flyover and the new maintenance depot. It contains three simulators: for Turbo units, IEPs and Class 387 EMUs. Most of the visit was spent on the Turbo simulator, driving over a fictitious route so that any driver being re-assessed would not be familiar with it. The driver sits in front of a screen with all the controls in front including door opening/closing, horn, communications, engine ignition, power controller and brake. Various scenarios can be played out by the trainer from a separate room adjacent to the simulator. These can include anything from extreme fog, rain, snow, day or nighttime, inclines (up and down), low adhesion and other incidents like fires on adjacent trains, sheep on the line, cracked windscreens etc.
'Beam me up Scotty…' Stuart Hicks tried his hand on the Turbo simulator (note side screen left).
For the final 30 minutes John showed us the recently installed IEP simulator (appropriately replacing a HST simulator) and the Class 387 simulator in its new building; both full mock ups of the actual cabs. The difference is that drivers actually enter via a door and feel enclosed (they look like spaceships from the outside rather than trains!) but in the Turbo people can stand behind. The party was allowed to look and not 'drive'. Perhaps this was just as well given the competency that was shown on the Turbo!
Reading is one of three similar GWR centres; the others are at Bristol (Class 150 & HST) and Plymouth (Class 150 & IEP). It takes over 200 hours of assessments, which include work on the simulators and live line running with an instructor, before becoming a fully-fledged GWR driver. The very informative afternoon increased the group's understanding of the training (and regular refreshers) that drivers must undertake to make our rail travel so safe.