It is thought that most people in the industry will be impacted by the implementation of ERTMS, an initiative backed by the European Union to enhance cross-border interoperability and the procurement of signalling equipment by creating a single Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems.

So one of the challenges lies in ensuring operational readiness prior to the national deployment, which commences on the East Coast Main Line in 2018.

Most rail industry personnel will need to be aware of the new technology and how it affects them, but additionally, it is estimated that some 55,000 people spanning multiple disciplines including rolling stock, track, signalling and operations will require a specific level of training, and certain activities will require new levels of assessed competency.

It is therefore vital to the successful deployment of ERTMS that training is considered as a critical aspect in the deployment, to ensure the industry is ready to embrace the new technology and methods of working.

Benefits of ERTMS

The deployment of ERTMS into a national rail network will bring many benefits. Over the next 30 years, the technology will enable:

• a reduction in infrastructure costs (from the reduced amount of trackside equipment)
• continuous ATP (Automatic Train Protection) to further increase safety
• an increase in rail capacity
• a reduction in supplier costs.

ERTMS allows the railway to become more adaptable and affordable. Utilising mobile communication GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway) technology to send information to and from the train, ERTMS enables drivers to view instructions on speed limits and movement authorities via a visual display in the cab, instead of the traditional line-side signals. It also allows specific customised control, allowing drivers to always run at the optimum safe speed, helping more trains run to time for more of their journey, thereby reducing journey times, and increasing capacity and improving recovery from delays.

In addition the system offers full automatic train protection, with the train stopping should a driver fail to respond to warnings. The removal of traditional railway signals is a key aspect in delivering a reduction in infrastructure renewals and maintenance costs, and will allow for capacity optimisations based on train performance, rather than infrastructure constraints.

However, the benefits of this new and advanced technology, which includes the European Train Control System (ETCS) and new operating rules, will only be realised if the people who are to be involved receive the correct and appropriate training.

There is a high risk to successful implementation and rollout due to the timescales available to undertake the training and competence assessment of sufficient numbers of skilled workers to design, install, maintain and operate the new system.

How should ERTMS training be delivered?

The National Skills Academy Railway Engineering (NSARE) is leading a European Train Control System (ETCS) Academy feasibility study. Sue Gill, NSARE project director said: ‘The academy feasibility study is pulling together expertise from across the industry to understand the skills and competence needed, as well as the scale of training, the training capacity, facilities, and qualifications frameworks required, in order to consider and identify industry preferred options that are best suited to addressing the industry wide training challenge.’

Interfleet, as one of the stakeholders in NSARE is working alongside other industry bodies to provide inputs into the study, drawing on the company’s specific ERTMS expertise, including the successful training programme developed and delivered on the Cambrian Line ERTMS early deployment scheme (EDS) for Arriva Trains Wales.

Providing the training needed to ensure that the workforce affected by the introduction of ERTMS are competent in their roles has some significant challenges, not least in developing sufficient numbers of trainers with appropriate knowledge, and sourcing sufficient training facilities equipped with ERTMS.

The training and competence assessment programme will be the largest programme for the UK rail industry in recent times, as ERTMS will have a direct impact on job roles at all levels across the industry. Each role needs to be considered individually to identify the training and assessment requirements.

There are two elements to ensuring individuals are able to carry out their roles: firstly, training and assessment of competence. Typically projects that introduce new equipment and systems normally encompass some form of hands-on training, but do not always consider how the assessment of competence will be addressed, as it’s often assumed that the training on its own is sufficient.

ERTMS training needs to be developed in such a way as to support companies’ competence management systems (CMS), which are part of their safety management systems (SMS). It needs to enable these companies to integrate the additional skills and knowledge elements associated with ERTMS with their current CMS processes, both from an initial and on-going assessment of competence point of view.

The key to delivering such a major programme is detailed planning, to ensure that the resources, both human and facilities wise, are available in line with the roll out project plan. The planning therefore has to include how sufficient numbers of trainers in the various disciplines, together with appropriate facilities, are going to be developed, so that they will be in place to deliver the programme.

Planning the delivery should also take into account the timeframe in which the training has to be provided in advance of the system’s introduction. This is to prevent the need for refresher training, which can be required when the period of time between training and implementation is too long for people to remember what they were trained in.

Rob Gordon is head of the Training and Competence Solutions team at rail industry training provider Interfleet Technology.