Clear views ahead

Display technology usually found on military fighter jets may one day be fitted in rail cabs to help drivers avoid distractions, say engineers.

Watching the track ahead for signals and potential hazards is a vital part of a train driver’s job. But the increasing number of in-cab instruments are diverting their attention.

The distractions could increase with the roll-out of ERTMS, a pan-European rail traffic management system that will replace in-cab displays with conventional signalling systems.

In an attempt to reduce this potentially hazardous information overload, engineers at BAE Systems, working with funding from the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), have developed a rail-cab simulator equipped with a head-up display (HUD) screen borrowed from the aerospace industry.

Eyes forward: distractions can be cut with the use of display technology

Based loosely on the cab of a Virgin Pendolino, the simulator, which has been developed at BAE’s Advanced Technology centre in Bristol, uses the HUD to place speed, brake and automatic warning system information in the driver’s direct line of sight.

Following a series of trials, in which the technology was favourably received by 16 train drivers, the RSSB concluded there would be clear benefits in installing such systems in trains.

Kelvin Davies, a human factors expert at BAE who headed the project, claimed such systems could be fitted to existing train cabs without requiring a major redesign. While there are no firm plans for installing HUD system on trains, BAE is in discussions with a number of interested systems integrators, he said.