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Global Shift Planes-To-Trains Could Scale XR Across Rail Training & Operation

Image credit: InnoTrans - The International Trade Fair for Transportation Technology

“A long-term shift in attitudes around climate change, travel and work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic could serve to significantly curb aviation growth in the next decade, according to analysts at Swiss bank UBS.” 

Research released earlier this year by the financial giant forecasts global air travel growth for the decade could shrink 10 percent compared to expectations prior to the coronavirus outbreak, due in large part to a global acceleration in the shift from planes to high-speed rail. The shift is set to be felt most dramatically in Europe.

A growing shift away from air travel would deliver an enormous boost to global rail markets & sourcing, with XR expected to play a major role in workforce training, rail operation & maintenance.

Metro Trains Australia (MTA), that has developed a bespoke VR solution to educate future train drivers, states it has seen a number of benefits since introducing VR as a learning tool: VR training has sped up content delivery by 30 percent, reduced the error rate for technical tasks by 82 percent, and increased the accuracy on assigned jobs by up to 96 percent. MTA says that aside from improved results, the VR project offered a way to reduce risk to trainees by giving them more experience and skills before entering real-world operations (source: itnews Australia, July 28, 2020).

Image credit: Metro Trains Australia (MTA)
The railway operator, which runs Metro Trains Melbourne and the Sydney’s driverless metro, worked with technology partners Exner Group and Real Serious Games (RSG) to create a VR world using RSG’s XR Engine.

Trainees using the VR platform are assessed in real-time using telemetry and diagnostic tools, which helps facilitators to understand and address roadblocks in the learning process and create tailored training experiences. In total, more than 6 km of virtual railway track have been developed to support multiple interactive training modules.

Augmented Reality Changing Rail Operations
AR applications across the rail industry also have the potential to change rail training and operations.

In the article ‘Future Sight: Augmented Reality and Rail’, David Marc Smith states that there remains a divide between the wealth of data available and its ability to deliver value within the rail industry.

“The trackside environment is a complex three-dimensional interdependency of assets, hazards and personnel. It is dynamic with a high number of variables. The challenge of balancing safety and productivity is constant,” says David. “In contrast, the data that is used to guide our decisions remains confined to two-dimensional paper and mobile interfaces.”

 “AR’s capacity to bridge the physical-digital divide allows us to unlock a huge amount of untapped benefits from stored data,” proceeds David. “This use of technology to improve training creates significant benefits downstream around both operation and maintenance. In the asset-heavy context of rail, these benefits improve both safety and productivity.”

Image credit: Johanna Ungeheuer (

The technology is also being used at HS2, the upcoming high-speed rail line currently under construction in the UK. Old Oak Common will be one of the UK’s busiest and best-connected stations. Serving both HS2 and the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), it is designed to handle around 275,000 passengers every day. To accommodate that number of people in a pleasant, safe, and efficient environment, it is crucial that staff know the station’s workings in detail.

In a UK-first, Britain’s new high-speed rail network is using AR to train the staff who will eventually run the Old Oak Common ‘super hub’. HS2 Ltd has partnered with AR experts PAULEY, the National College for High Speed Rail and innovation management consultant Inventya to deliver the project.

Image credit: PAULEY
PAULEY founder & managing director Philip Pauley says: “We’re only starting to harness the power of Augmented Reality. Few people really get what it is and what it can do. The way you might want to think about it is like that famous Star Wars scene where R2-D2 projects a 3D image of Princess Lea. That’s what AR is, except for now it’s with the addition of a high-tech visor through which to see it.”

Image credit: PAULEY - AR Digital Twin HoloLens Application set to be used on the multi-billion-pound HS2 Rail Project. By using cutting-edge Augmented Reality technology, PAULEY aims to help revolutionize the way in which rail station staff are trained and upskilled.

Image credit: PAULEY - HS2 uses augmented reality to train Old Oak Common station future staff

“The technology we’re bringing to HS2 enables the wearer to see Old Oak Common station in minute detail. It unlocks huge opportunities to explore, test and refine a digital replica of the station years before the passengers arrive.”

The HS2 AR project is geared towards training staff in customer service; as well as enabling them to become familiarized with maintenance and safety protocols before the station opens. The station’s designers expect to elicit feedback from staff who have undergone the training in order to address any prevailing issues while the station is being built, rather than needing to make inconvenient and costly changes later on.

Augmented Reality Technology is currently making huge waves in the rail industry and being considered vital in enhancing passenger's experience. It is now visible in many core business processes - from workforce training to overcrowding, from design preview and construction monitoring to maintenance.

PAULEY is a dynamic UK-based SME at the forefront of the exciting emerging market in big data and interactive tools for business. Pioneers in Spatial Computing, its specialist team is working with clients operating in key industries and sectors including transport, safety critical industries and the education and training sector, to embed innovative digital technology into their business processes. By adopting new and innovative ways of learning & working using pioneering digital technology, we help to realize cost savings, increase productivity, maximize user engagement, enhance performance and drive efficiencies. From 'Training & Skills Development' to 'Asset Management' & 'Fault Finding', PAULEY’s collaborations are pivotal in introducing ground-breaking, innovative, digital ways of working.