The Railways will spend around Rs 350 crore to train 1.5 lakh drivers and assistant drivers through virtual reality techniques to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical learning, an official said today. The training will be conducted in 47 centres across zones and the national transporter will soon float a global tender to acquire about 40 simulators for the purpose. “We spend almost a month in giving drivers on-road training. They learn all the techniques in theory, but through these virtual reality techniques, they will learn how to navigate routes, signals, curves, bridges and any other situation as if they are actually driving a real train,” said the senior official of the ministry.
Fitted with computer-generated motion images, the simulator will have a man-machine interface, a host of computers and a video camera to capture the movements of the driver. It would look like a sophisticated electric locomotive and drivers would feel as if they are steering a train on a specified route. The motion pictures on the monitor in front of the wheel would keep changing and drivers would feel a flurry of activity around them, such as the passing of other trains on adjacent tracks, people and cattle crossing the tracks and sharp bends.
Some zonal railways have already experimented with simulators. The first one was tried in Vadodara and the second in Vijaywada where assistant driver recruits were trained on the state-of-the-art simulators.
Globally, simulator-based training is being imparted by operators in the US, France and Spain and has emerged as a critical component of crew training for it presents a real-life environment and exposes trainees to unusual occurrences. “This will test how alert a trainee is. They will learn how to deal with a hazardous situation by actually experiencing it and dealing with it. It will greatly improve their skills,” said the official. Over 12,000 electric and diesel locomotives daily run on a 66,000-km network across the country. There are about 86,000 train drivers.