Rail & Public Transport

ERTMS roll out strategy

The train driver’s job will change significantly during the next 10 years. Most importantly by the deployment of ERTMS Level 2, but also other technological developments can be of influence.

The Dutch ERTMS program therefore commissioned a study that should provide answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the impact of ERTMS and other innovations on the workload of drivers?
  2. Will the required competences of drivers change (and if so, how)?
  3. How many hours should a driver service on ERTMS sections to become and remain competent?
  4. Are there - from an operational perspective - needs towards ERTMS roll out through a ‘patchwork’ or ‘inkblot’ strategy?

These research questions were answered on the basis of existing knowledge and experience from The Netherlands and abroad (existing operation, pilot trajectories, literature), interviews and workshops with experts, and a survey among train drivers of several freight and passenger carriers and process contractors.

The study shows that ERTMS driving is generally less demanding than the legacy ATB. However, there is a potential peak load at level transitions between ERTMS and ATB sections when located at an unfavourable position. Also, sources of error are identified by differences in regulation amongst ERTMS sections and by differences in information presentation and data entry by the driver machine interface (DMI). Furthermore, the study shows that some other innovations are complementary to ERTMS, whilst others are highly undesirable in combination with ERTMS because contradictory information from a lower safety level may be presented.

Requested competencies may slightly change due to developments in the train driver’s job. The driving task becomes more reactive, there will be greater use of innovations and drivers are entering a period of many changes. The result is that there is a greater appeal to intelligence, vigilance, computer skills, technical insight, and resilience. From experience it is suggested that a clearer distinction must be made between training for new rolling stock and for ERTMS. The role of simulators in training is becoming much more important.

The qualitative part of the study showed that drivers after basic ERTMS training should drive for a period of six months, three times a week to become truly proficient for ERTMS. Once they have qualified, it appears from the questionnaire and other research that drivers should encounter an ERTMS section for a minimum of once every six months to remain competent. 

From an operational perspective, there is a slight preference for an ‘inkblot’ roll-out strategy. This preference is based on a number of advantages of this model: (1) there is a clearer mental picture for the driver; his situation awareness is thus simplified, (2) it puts less burden on training capacity, because the training can take place more gradually, and (3) it appears more robust to disturbances because trained staff is present in and around the ‘inkblot’. For most smaller train operating companies only to the first argument applies: for them the preference for an ‘inkblot’ is less prominent.

This project was presented during the 6th International Rail Human Factors Conference. Download this paper.