FRA unveils new train safety tool

Posted on March 23, 2010

On Tuesday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Joseph C. Szabo announced efforts to prevent train accidents caused by human error with the installation of a technologically advanced train simulator.


The newly acquired equipment will permit researchers to realistically simulate innumerable conditions and scenarios encountered during railroad operations to help identify safety problems and develop effective solutions. The $1.6 million Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) was constructed by Alion Science and Technology headquartered in McLean, Va., and will be located at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems in Cambridge, Mass.


Among its capabilities, the full-sized locomotive simulator can accurately record crew behavior through the use of video, audio and eye-tracking capabilities at the control and button-pushing level. This allows researchers to carefully observe the actions of train crews, and monitor the corresponding effect of their actions on the simulated locomotive they are operating.


Other features include modeling and visualization technologies which are tools used to optimize the physical design and configuration of locomotive cabs to enhance crew performance.


Using the simulator as a laboratory, FRA will continue its longstanding research program to analyze the role human factors play in freight and passenger train accidents, injuries and deaths. Specifically, the simulator will be used to evaluate the safety and reliability of new locomotive technology systems, controls and displays prior to their wholesale adoption and use by the railroad industry.


Created to minimize the risk of human errors that may lead to an accident, the FRA’s Human Systems Integration (HSI) research and development program is focused on the interface between employees and railroad equipment and infrastructure. The CTIL is intended to serve as a resource for technical collaboration between government, industry, academia, and others to improve train crew decision-making and performance during routine railroad operations.


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