Operational Readiness Planning Facilitation for Rail Systems and Human Factors

Last Updated on October 30, 2023


NSW Transport Projects Division is overseeing construction of a new stabling yard at Rossmore, as part of the Southwest Rail Link project.

A major challenge faced at the stabling yard location was significant noise restrictions, inhibiting the traditional method for alerting personnel to train movement; the sounding of the train horn. To ensure continued safe operations during train preparation, the client proposed an innovative Ground Based Warning System (GBWS) consisting of audible and visual warnings.

Ground Based Warning Systems for Operational Readiness and Safety training in a complex rail stabling yard environment

The complexities of the stabling yard logistics and large number of personnel involved in operation and maintenance required a high degree of stakeholder engagement. Ensuring all parties, especially the train drivers, were completely comfortable with all aspects of the new system was imperative to achieving rapid sign off and implementation and avoiding costly delays and reconfigurations.

A challenging process of change management and stakeholder engagement meant that the GBWS had not yet been completely signed off when construction of the yards began. As a result, a variety of opportunities were identified to alleviate stakeholder concerns and build confidence in the GBWS system, meeting the specific needs of the Operational Readiness team.

In a high risk environment, such as the stabling yards, safety procedures are an issue of special concern, with the management of the physical environment being paramount to employee safety. Demonstrating the location of visual warning indicators, lighting, associated colours, flashing and sounds in the operating environment was vital to getting buy-in from the key stakeholders. Being able to experience the different elements of the system under a range of environmental conditions, such as time of day, dark clouded sky versus clear bright sky and from a range of vantage points was also required in order to assess and verify the effectiveness of each element, integrated with the context.

With such a wide range of contributing integrated elements it was imperative for the client to close out as many situations as possible. Through a thorough exploration and explanation of these elements, each stakeholder could ‘experience’ the new system in an integrated simulation, building confidence and understanding of the product and its advantages while mitigating risks associated with functionality. How to deliver this shared understanding of a product not yet installed was the key challenge, requiring a solution to allow rapid knowledge sharing and collaboration between the client and stakeholders.


Creating the digital 3D operational replica of the stabling yards was just the beginning. Through facilitated workshops with UC staff, the client was able to master the complexities of the situation and then work with the various stakeholders as they experienced the new system in real-time, through interactive demonstrations.

Working through each scenario in an environment where shared understanding of the project is achieved so rapidly allowed the client to explore many iterations as well as to assess, verify and communicate the various elements of the GBWS.

Working through each scenario in an environment where shared understanding of the project is achieved so rapidly allowed the client to explore many iterations as well as to assess, verify and communicate the various elements of the GBWS.

With speed, precision and clarity, the new system and its various elements were available to all stakeholders with the 3D real-time model including all critical contextual information such as signalling, stanchions and overhead cabling, simulated train movements, geo-located sun positioning, shadows and lighting and subtle operating elements of the GBWS.

Within the environment there were a variety of elements and options to be analysed and optioneered. These included:

  • Location of buttons and switches in relation to the driver,
  • Visual warning indicator positions,
  • Indicator colours,
  • Indicator movements,
  • Flashing patterns,
  • Switch designs,
  • Timing of integrated sequences

This allowed the client to accurately experience and analyse the impact of the proposed variations of the GBWS in a “day in the life” of a driver, a guard and a cleaner. 

UC’s 3D Urban Engine, modelling and audio software created a credible environment where the suitability of the system could be tested and verified with clarity and speed, facilitating valuable conversation and analysis.

Facilitated Design Workshop 

To identify the most functional designs for the GBWS to take to stakeholders for discussion, the first workshop included a dozen attendees, comprising GBWS designers, human factors specialists and project managers. 

Facilitating the design conversation with the live digital 3D platform enabled the team to objectively evaluate and verify interfacing elements of the GBWS and make decisions right there in the workshop. The shared understanding of the system and how it was interacting with the environment enabled rich discussion, driving valuable ‘shared thinking’ to identify solutions. 

Being able to move around the space including driver view, with realistic animated experiences propelled the conversation forward and enabled the team to see the whole picture and truly understand the options. With an accurate environment before them, the team confidently eliminated options and unanimously agreed on the preferred solution in real-time, ready to present this to the wider audience, especially the train drivers. 

“The UC design workshop was extremely valuable with their technology and management ability bringing diverse experts to the same viewpoint and helping them drive the solution to a resolution.”

— Andrew Stringer, Project Manager

Facilitated Stakeholder Workshop 

In the stakeholder workshop, the preferred solution was presented to the stakeholders, including train drivers for feedback and discussion. Using 3D digital and audio technology, the client was able to clearly present and communicate the proposed system, and how it operated. The client could step the train drivers through each and every scenario from an operational perspective. 

It was important to demonstrate the key interfaces and operational elements, such as, the exact position of the switch in relation to the cabin and stairs, switch designs, location of switches and layout within the context of the stabling yard.

The stakeholders could experience these interfaces and elements in all operational scenarios, such as standing on the ground, walking across tracks and down stairs, from inside the cabin and whilst the train was in motion. This was performed under a range of different environmental situations, including pre-sunrise, sunrise, full sun, sunset and night time. This complex multitude of factors created many dynamic scenarios, however it was vital that every stakeholder was 100 percent comfortable with the proposed changes, thus no stone was left unturned.

“UC completed the project in a very short timeframe. They got all of the details right, they were very committed to the project and went the extra mile. I hope to work together again.”

— Andrew Stringer, Project Manager

The rail drivers gave input that adjustments were required with the audio in the warning system, the colour of the lighting (when seen in the context of many yellow double-decker Warratah trains) and other manageable details. These ideas were able to be resolved through live conversation and changes with the use of several technologies.

The workshop achieved broad support from all stakeholders through a robust and credible process supporting a shared understanding of the proposal. Stakeholders were engaged and felt respected and valued throughout the process, with the simple and effective communications leading one union train driver representatives to state, “This is the best workshop that I have ever been to”.

The cultural benefits achieved by implementing such a credible consultation process will also be evident in the workplace in the long term.


Client Challenge – introducing a change in systems to a rail environment is a very complicated process with many stakeholders and concern for safety.

Our role – to bring the entire stakeholder group along the journey in an open interactive rapid 3D agile process to demonstrate and prove up the solution.

Our method – using our visual technology we facilitated multiple workshops with live 3D interactive visual information that enabled the stakeholder to experience and alter the scenario and test it from the human viewpoint. This included human factors analysis, drivers and operators, maintenance crew and staffing.

Client Benefits – after a long time of struggling to progress the concept and win approvals from the various stakeholders and user groups, as well as spending large sums on human factors and design analysis reports – the client was able to resolve all concerns in a short period of time through only several workshops. The union representative leaders proclaimed these “were the best workshops they had ever attended” as they were real, open, 3D and easy to understand.

Simulate lighting and user scenarios from the stabling yard. Note the demonstration of assets, the real lighting to simulate the safety features of the system so that all crew are aware of the departing train for safety reasons.


In a short timeframe, UC enabled the client to decrease risk and cost associated with unforeseen issues and lack of user familiarity, have designers unanimously agree on a preferred solution to present to stakeholders, and create shared understanding across a multitude of people and interfacing issues. 

“Based on this experience, I would recommend using UC technology and management much earlier in the process, especially in complex areas. It was a very worthwhile undertaking and made management a whole lot easier.”

— Andrew Stringer, Project Manager