In a field where interoperability is key, the European Train Driver's Desk (EUDD) project demonstrates the success of consensus-building between locomotive drivers, industry, scientists and relevant associations. EUDD's Wolfgang H. Steinicke told press at the recent CER 2005 event how the project went about it.
From the outset, the European Train Driver's Desk project faced a vast array of challenges known to hamper cross-border railway traffic. These include different power supply systems, signalling, operational rules and, in some cases, different track gauges. While work in other European projects is underway to improve this situation, EUDD knew one of the turnkeys of interoperability is to harmonise the driver's workplace.
|Train drivers work station.|
© EUDD (Alstom LHB)
How the driver's desk is designed and built – including the so-called ‘man-machine interface' – has important safety and economic implications, especially for equipment and parts suppliers that previously had to tailor solutions for different train systems across Europe. The secret to EUDD's success, according to Wolfgang H. Steinicke of coordinating partner FAV Berlin, was to involve the customer and stakeholders early in the process.
“We worked on a culture of co-operation at EUDD, getting all the relevant parties involved… including train operators, researchers, economists, funding organisations, and so on,” he told reporters during the EU-hosted Communicating European Research (CER) 2005 event in November.
This helped the project deliver a working demo of the driver's desk within two years of being launched. The assistant professor at the Technical University Berlin and chairman of EUDD's coordination committee said that EU funding definitely helped with this and thanked the Commission for their strong support and guidance in the 11-partner six-country research project.
Platform for future success
Mr Steinicke compared pictures of standard 1950s-era consoles used by train drivers with the new cockpit-like driver's desk created by EUDD, before explaining the benefits to Europe of such a shift in design concept.
In addition to supporting European harmonisation through the development of interoperable rail products, EUDD increases staff flexibility for operators, and boosts the ability of railways to compete with other modes of transport. For drivers, the cockpit is more ergonomic, which improves working conditions and their reaction time to unexpected track incursions, for example.
Staff flexibility and training costs can also be cut using this system because it works on a ‘family concept' similar to that in airplanes – drivers learn how one desk functions and can use other units with minimum training. The desk was tested on drivers from all over Europe, from a 2.40m-tall man in Sweden to a 1.60m female operator in France. The single drive stick, which is something like a ‘joystick', was seen to improve usability markedly.
A technological advantage of EUDD is that it can be upgraded (software and hardware) with minimum effort, according to Steinicke. He concluded his media briefing with a chart showing where EUDD fits into the broader ‘European rail system of the future', incorporating other European funded projects, such as the SAFETRAIN and EURNEX, MODTRAIN and MODLINK, as well as INTEGRAIL.
In other news, the European rail sector is responding to growing demand for transport in an enlarged European Union. On 12 October 2005, high-level representatives of the European Parliament, the Commission, and the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) met with researchers, members of the rail industry and other stakeholders to discuss strategic and sustainable transport solutions. ERRAC was created in 2002 and was the first of the European Technology Platforms aimed at implementing the European Research Area (ERA).
EUDD, CER 2005