Govia Thameslink Railway’s driver training simulation programmes
In support of National Careers Week, Tim Wells, Operations Simulator Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), explains the vital role that training simulation programmes have in establishing confidence for both newer and experienced drivers, as well as the impact these simulations have in creating a safer, happier work environment.
Tim Wells, Operations Simulator Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). Credit: GTR
When I originally joined the rail industry as a Revenue Control Officer in 2001, I had no idea where my career would take me. I tried a few different jobs but when I came to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the rail operator that runs Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services, I knew I had found the right professional path for me.
From being a train driver myself, to now overseeing our train simulation programme, I am putting my years of experience to good use to help our drivers be the best they can be. Whether it’s training new drivers or refreshing the knowledge of qualified drivers, our train simulators are designed to help individuals improve their skills in a safe, monitored environment.
Limiting risk through training simulations
My role at GTR helps to limit risk on the railway by providing regular training that gives our drivers the courage and confidence to excel in their role, ultimately providing the best travelling experience for our passengers. Although people’s travelling patterns have changed following the pandemic, one thing that has not changed is people’s desire to have a good journey, we strive to make this happen through our dedicated training.
For train drivers, the number one priority is the safety of passengers and other users of the rail network. My team supports our drivers to respond quickly and effectively to real-life situations, helping them to feel calm and well-prepared for any eventuality. I know first-hand how important it is for drivers to have these sessions, I had the opportunity to be a train driver for 10 years.
From being a train driver myself, to now overseeing our train simulation programme, I am putting my years of experience to good use to help our drivers be the best they can be.
To reduce the chances of risk, we review technology being rolled out on our fleets to ensure our simulator programmes are up-to-date and reflect the reality of life on the railway. We deliver training for events and situations that cannot easily be created out on the network in real-time, such as emergency work, engineering works and infrastructure failures. We now have five different train simulator locations that come in in all shapes and sizes across the network – at Blackfriars, Hornsey, Three Bridges, Selhurst and Worthing. There are also laptop and desktop versions that can be used for less intense simulations, right through to an impressive Class 700 full replica cab simulator.
Simulation exercises allow us to monitor the performance of a driver, analyse how they have done and give detailed feedback in a safe environment. Many people think that a driver’s job is simple; you just hop in the cab, press a button and off the train goes, but it is not like that at all. I do not think people realise that the driver is fully in control of the train, so it is essential we use these simulation programmes regularly to improve performance and avoid any issues.
Importance of workforce diversity
Beyond the simulation side of driver training, we are working hard to attract a more diverse workforce to better reflect the communities we serve, and our driver recruitment programme plays a key role in making the railway even more inclusive. For example, we ran a series of dedicated recruitment and marketing campaigns targeting women. The result of this meant we successfully managed to double the number of female driver applicants, which is remarkable. However, we recognise there is still more to be done.
Beyond the simulation side of driver training, we are working hard to attract a more diverse workforce to better reflect the communities we serve…
Creating a more diverse pool has created an environment where our colleagues are happier, more motivated, and successful. It has also given GTR a chance to open opportunities to those who may have shied away from rail. It has been a pleasure to work with people from different backgrounds and communities, it has allowed us to hone our training programme to ensure we are supporting every driver to be their very best.
The pandemic has impacted so many people in different types of ways. As we are beginning to welcome more passengers back to the network and service frequency increases again, driver training continues to be integral inensuring everyone is safe. We are delighted to be getting back to normal, and we will continue to roll out simulation training for drivers to improve their skills in a safe environment.
National Careers Week
I am proof that a career can take many directions, and that the rail industry can offer a whole host of opportunities. This National Careers Week (7-12 March 2022), to find out more about becoming a train driver or see what other careers are available at GTR, please visit our website.