WATCH: How drivers get to grips with the new hi-tech trains coming to East Anglia
PUBLISHED: 19:01 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 19:36 14 March 2019
Train drivers are learning how to master new cutting edge trains replacing Greater Anglia’s stock by using a new £1.6m simulator at Norwich railway station.
It takes a six day course for existing drivers to get to grips with the new ‘Stadler bi-mode’ trains with half that time spent using a state-of-the-art simulator.
Using a real train cab, the simulator has all the controls and everything that’s in the real life version right down to the driver’s mug holder.
And after real track was videoed and then adapted into CGI animation you can drive out of ‘Norwich station’ onto the ‘Lowestoft line’ with all the platforms, surrounding countryside and even passengers just like real life.
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However, because the simulator is to help drivers learn to cope with possible problems too, you might also have to tackle obstructions on the line such as a cow which has wandered on from a field. Weather conditions can also change to include storms, fog and rain and there is a day time and night time setting.
So far 185 drivers from Norwich and Cambridge have completed the course which also includes three days on the trains themselves.
It’s a real coup for Norwich to have the simulator as part of the first driver training academy following a £300,000 refurbishment of an old parcel office and store.
Glen Harwood, Greater Anglia’s driver trainer and simulator manager, likened the new trains as going from a ‘Ford Sierra to a 2019 BMW.’
The trains have computer systems which mean the driver can control heating, lighting, look at overhead power as well as see passengers getting on and off by CCTV to ensure safety. “Gone are the days of drivers having to get out of the train and walk up and down the platform,” he said.
Andrew Goodrum, Greater Anglia business readiness director, said: “The new trains are a giant leap forward in technology.”
In total 768 drivers will be given the new training using four simulators in preparation of Greater Anglia getting 169 new trains; 58 from Swiss manufacturer Stadler including 38 ‘bi-mode’ trains which can switch between diesel and electric power and 20 electric trains.
The new trains will be longer with more seats, plug and USB points, air conditioning and free, fast wi-fi.
Business writer Caroline Culot was given a try at ‘driving a train’ using the simulator. “I got a storm and both a cow and then a car on the line to test me and it was so realistic. I never knew it took a train so long to come to a standstill, it’s so difficult to get it to the correct place on the platform,” she said.