VTI has developed a train simulator that has become a valued tool in train driver education and research on how simulators can be used to improve railway technology.
Birgitta Thorslund, Senior Research Leader at VTI, explains that the simulator helps to give train drivers a better working environment as they feel safer and receive the necessary training, and operators may save money on more efficient education, avoiding costly errors and mistakes such as running through a switch.
“The rail traffic control function Train Manager is a software for VTI’s train simulators which started as a student project three years ago. It has become a real success that we have continued developing with TUFFA, an industry collaboration with those who use VTI’s simulator to educate or retrain train drivers.”
More and more areas of application for the train simulator
The Swedish Transport Administration is in the process of introducing ERTMS (a new signalling system for railways) that will run in the entire Swedish network eventually.
“It would be really difficult to train all drivers in the new system without the simulator, so it is a great advantage that we have developed it and that virtually all operators and educators are already using it, now when it really is needed.”
Two doctoral student projects associated with ERTMS are taking place at VTI. Niklas Olsson works with education in the new system and the development of new software for the simulator. He has also used it in training for drivers to better handle the track facilities. Tomas Rosberg is investigating different train traffic simulation tools, what they provide and how they could be used to increase capacity on the railway and ensure better timetable planning.
The simulator is also used by doctoral student Thiago Cavalcanti, who is working with how to perform driveability analyses using simulation both with and without drivers in a train simulator.
“When planning or rebuilding a track there are requirements to perform driveability analyses beforehand, but there are no methods or tools for doing it. It is useful to be able to investigate the drivability of a track with different kinds of trains and different goals, such as capacity, punctuality, energy efficiency, or comfort, before beginning construction.”
New ideas and synergies
Birgitta Thorslund explains that it was difficult to find funding for the research connected to the train simulator a couple of years ago, but that the situation today is quite different and that the business is now moving full steam ahead.
“We don’t have to work as hard to apply for funding. It’s become an accepted tool. The clients have discovered the benefits and opportunities and are coming to us looking for corporative opportunities. The research has really taken off, TUFFA continues to grow and we have completed several recruitment cycles in recent years within train simulation. It’s providing new thoughts and perspectives on how we might develop the simulator business further in the future.”
VTI, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, Sweden