Are you struggling with the limitations of traditional railway training methods, affecting efficiency and staff readiness? Is delivering competency-based training and assessment proving expensive, slow and possibly non-compliant? Do you find it challenging to rapidly onboard and train new workers?
Whereas conventional railway education methods are constrained by the availability of facilities and staff, our realistic CGI instructional simulations make it possible to inform thousands of learners at once, precisely communicating and testing operational procedures and safety protocols without needing to be onsite. This leads to highly effective inductions, safer operations, shorter railway training periods, and an overall enhancement in the productivity of the rail network.
CONTENTS: Railway education | CGI railway training services | What does competency-based training mean? | Types of competency-based training | Examples | Track induction courses | Equipment and asset inductions | Safety inductions | Site access | SARC | Supervised Worker training | Track inspection training | Rolling stock/train driver training | Rail boarding procedures | Shunting training | Coupling/uncoupling training | Safe loading/unloading | Railway communication systems
CGI training simulations induct, teach and operationalise faster
Utilising the power of simulation and gamification, Urban CGI makes complex information digestible and memorable. Our Digital Twins technology creates true-to-life virtual models of railway assets and systems, giving learners interactive experiences that mimic real-world conditions.
In this article we outline how our simulation-based training is used within the rail industry, showcasing competency-based training examples from our clients. We hope this information is helpful for employers evaluating the potential of CGI simulations as instructional training solutions within the railway sector, as well as individual learners and decision-makers within the broader railway industry. Transport policymakers keen on improving rail competencies and reducing costs through digital education may also find this material valuable.
The need for new approaches in railway education
Traditionally, railway education involves mostly classroom tuition, practical simulator training, and on-the-job experience. Rail-specific courses are offered by universities, railroad training schools, rail academies, or vocational training institutions. Rail organisations may offer apprenticeships, internships, and mentorships upon employment while continuing to upskill existing staff, ensuring workers remain safe and comply with regulatory standards. Many railway training programs are delivered in-house by the rail organisation or by external training providers who customise their offerings to meet the needs of a specific rail network.
A challenge to education and training in this sector is the lack of scale that makes quality training uncommercial. Hands-on training provided by the operators through access to rail equipment and tracks can be more effective, however they are pressed financially to deliver training on top of their operational requirements.
Most [larger-sized operators] believed that it was better for them to deliver in-house training due to their expertise in the relevant areas, their intimate knowledge of the specific type of training their workers required and their ability to adapt the training to better suit their specific systems and business operations.– Young, C., Jones, R. N., Heenetigala, K., Ooi, D., Lung, S., and Parry, N., Reimagining the workforce: the Victorian rolling stock context, Literature review, Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia (2020)[i]
Despite the long-standing requirement for quality competency-based training courses in the rail industry, the demand for innovative training methods is burgeoning as never before, and providers of quality have been scarce.
Rapid changes in railways require rapid upskilling
The railway industry is beginning to see a wave of expansion and technological evolution, driven by developments in artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), automated systems, and other technologies.
For instance, automated and driverless trains are already operational in many parts of the world, and several large rail networks have made significant strides in implementing predictive maintenance systems. Railways are also introducing new-generation signalling infrastructure with remote monitoring systems across large areas of the network.
As these new technologies emerge, they bring a change in the demand for the skills required of the Rail workforce. Upskilling will be required to ensure the right skills are developed to meet flexible job demands and increase productivity.– Australian Industry Standards, Skills forecast 2019: Rail Industry Reference Committee, Australian Industry Reference Committee, Melbourne, Australia (2019)[ii]
Swift technological advancement necessitates high-quality, current training. Our Urban CGI digital eLearning system makes this possible.
Rail Industry growth
Not only is railway technology rapidly evolving, but the rail industry itself is undergoing accelerated growth. Many governments are investing heavily in railway development due to the lower carbon emissions compared to other forms of transportation, aligning with broader policies to reduce carbon footprints.
For example, an Australian Industry Standards (AIS) report predicts that new Australian rail projects and upgrades will receive over $100 billion in investment by 2030.[ii] This significant investment brings an influx of infrastructure upgrades and expansion, with ever more staff needing inducting and upskilling.
Skilled worker shortage and a lack of qualified training instructors
This accelerated growth has led to a shortfall of skilled workers and a lack of experienced trainers and assessors. This makes it difficult to deliver the volume of training necessary in the timeframe required to ensure a steady stream of newly trained staff.
…the industry is also suffering a chronic shortage of trainers and assessors. There is a growing demand for trainers and assessors who have a comprehensive understanding of systems and e-learning development capability, as well as the ability to deliver high quality training within an Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR/VR) learning environment.– Australian Industry Standards, Skills forecast 2019: Rail Industry Reference Committee, Australian Industry Reference Committee, Melbourne, Australia (2019)[ii]
Our online CGI railway training remedies these issues, alleviating the pressure on existing trainers and allowing them to focus their expertise where it is most needed.
Railway operational staff are spread over distance
Complicating matters further, railway personnel are often spread out across the countryside, making it challenging to coordinate physical training sessions and maintain consistent quality across the organisation. Centralised training is often impractical due to travel costs and the time away from work, while disparities in regional training can result in inconsistent skill acquisition between staff members. Rail organisations are hence increasingly turning to eLearning solutions that allow for uniform training delivery, irrespective of geographical boundaries.
As an example, a regional transport organisation in Australia operates approximately 1,500 train services per week, spanning several thousand kilometres of track and running 500 connecting coach services within remote areas. This operation is managed by 1,400 staff, many of whom reside rurally. Another Australian rail organisation has approximately 10,000 staff, with several hundred country and interstate destinations. To train such a vast workforce across such a large area, both organisations developed their own in-house eLearning training system.[i]
For over twenty years, we have assisted railway organisations in overcoming this exact challenge, creating high-quality competency-based training programs tailored to their specific needs.
Urban CGI competency-based railway training
Urban CGI helps rail organisations and educational institutions produce high-quality competency-based training and development materials, with resources delivered via the cloud online. We use CGI simulations to create animated railway training videos, educational apps, and website-based railway learning platforms.
These interactive resources are customised to fit your specific requirements and can be integrated within vocational courses, accredited railway training programs, train controller and train driver training, railway apprentice training, and degrees or short courses for supervisors, managers, track workers, station staff, and other railway personnel. Our eLearning materials can be utilised within railway refresher courses or requalification training, and are commonly used to deliver inductions, and site familiarisation, with digitalised training modules accurately communicating specific procedures, technologies, or safety protocols.
Our CGI training methodology has many advantages:
- Instant access, anywhere – accessible via login, and repeatable as needed.
- Gamified learning – integrating railway competency-based questions and other multi-media gamification strategies.
- Engaging, interactive content – leading to strong knowledge retention.
- Thousands of staff can be trained simultaneously – this is particularly important in the railway industry, where round-the-clock operations can make scheduling and supervising in-person training sessions difficult.
- Multi-purpose – a single 3D simulation of an asset or railway environment can be used for multiple scenario-based learning opportunities. For instance, a single rolling stock digital model can form the basis of rail operator training, decoupling training, track inductions, train conductor courses, and numerous other railway competency training programmes.
- Easy to update – we have a fast turnaround period when changes are requested.
- Alignment with formal rail competency assessment standards – we can link training to competency-based learning outcomes as required for the submission of compliance proofs to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) or other relevant regulatory boards. Our competency-based training systems can be formally assessed as part of railway training accreditation schemes, with simulation-based training modules linked to units of competency, reflecting the railway course syllabus, curriculum, or workplace requirements.
- Excellent return on investment – with economies of scale surpassing those that traditional rail competency learning models deliver (see graphic below).
You can read more about the benefits of our training technology here.
What does competency-based training mean?
A definition: Competency-based training refers to education that emphasises what a participant can do in the workplace. The goal is to instil measurable, evidence-based skills that directly relate to the job at hand. This approach to training focuses on the practical application of these skills rather than simply a theoretical understanding.
To be effective, competency-based learning should be specific, practical, and regularly evaluated. Our CGI railway training course materials embody this approach, ensuring staff can apply their knowledge in a real-world setting.
Our simulation-based approach encapsulates all of the key characteristics and principles of competency-based training, including:
- Experiential learning – emphasising practical application rather than theory.
- Mastery of tasks – workers achieve specific competencies before moving on to the next task.
- Learner-centred – modules are tailored to each learner’s pace, allowing them to progress once they have demonstrated sufficient aptitude rather than following a set timetable.
- Outcome-oriented – focusing on achieving the desired practical outcome.
- Role-specific – competencies are directly linked to the skills and knowledge required in a specific role.
- Standardised learning – learners meet a defined standard in each competency, ensuring consistency across the workforce.
- Flexibility – tasks can be easily updated to keep pace with technological advancements, regulatory changes, and evolving industry best practices.
- Performance – by focusing on specific practical skills, learning is more efficient, leading to employees who are competent in their roles, improving operational efficiency. This is one of the most important benefits of competency-based training.
A competency-based learning model is particularly beneficial for industries like railways, where safety and technical proficiency are paramount, and even minor errors can have significant consequences. As such, an operational competency-based education system is used by many railway networks, although the extent and precise methods vary and have different names in different jurisdictions.
For example, rail competency-based training in Australia is managed under the Rail Industry Worker (RIW) program, implemented by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA). This program establishes a unified system to ensure that workers are skilled, competent, and meet specific health and fitness standards before undertaking work in a rail environment.
All rail industry workers within Australia must hold a RIW card demonstrating their competency to perform workplace duties. The RIW card provides a method of tracking, recording, and verifying individual qualifications, which can vary depending on job role and specific tasks, ensuring worker competencies remain up-to-date and valid.
Types of competency-based training: effective strategies within CGI railway training
- Scenario-based learning: Our CGI systems lets us create an almost infinite array of complex railway scenarios, from station activities to trackside operations and rail yard manoeuvres, providing realistic contexts for learning.
- Skills practice and repetition: CGI simulations let railway personnel practice and repeat industry-specific skills, such as troubleshooting door faults or executing safe coupling and decoupling procedures. This ensures trainees reach an appropriate competency level in a risk-free setting before translating their knowledge to onsite operations.
- Progressive complexity: Training can commence with foundational skills and procedures before gradually advancing to more complex scenarios, such as managing train movement during peak hours or carrying out emergency braking procedures, facilitating the gradual development of competencies.
- Group simulations: Training models can even be built to allow several trainees to participate in a CGI simulation together, each fulfilling a different role, such as a train driver, signal operator, or maintenance technician. This can enhance teamwork and communication skills, mimicking the collaborative nature of real-world railway operations.
Urban CGI examples of competency-based training and railway inductions
We have extensive experience understanding the specific needs and nuances of the railway sector, working hand-in-hand with key railway employers such as Transport for NSW, ARTC, Transport Sydney Trains, Rail Projects Victoria, and Queensland Rails. We are a preferred supplier for operational readiness and pilot route knowledge for Tier 1 rail operators, including Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM – an alliance of MTR, JHG and UGL), and provide Metrol train controller, signaller, and signal technician inductions. We have delivered CGI-based operational readiness training within all disruptive rail projects in Melbourne into MTM for many years and have preferred supplier status and a long-term standing agreement for ongoing works across the organisation. We are known not only for the “world-best simulation” (to quote MTM managers) but also our iterative, integrated, and collaborative workflow.
Below is a sample of the inductions and operational competency-based learning materials we have prepared for our railway clients within Australia, New Zealand, the UK and beyond (with links to many more projects showcased on our website).
We hope these case studies illustrate the breadth of our rail training services and make it clear just how simple and straightforward industry training can be when the right technology is used.
These operational competence examples involve precise and accurate geospatial and behavioural simulations of railway environments or assets, with informational overlays, interactions and audio reinforcing the learning outcomes, ensuring efficient onboarding and upskilling of staff.
We have successfully delivered hundreds of high-definition rail training simulations for high-intensity commissioning assignments for projects worth billions. The visual authenticity of our simulations, accuracy, speed of delivery, and added features remain unrivalled in the rail industry. Get in contact to find out more.
Railway track induction courses, route familiarisation, and operational readiness
Situational awareness in complex operational environments can save lives. In the rail environment, any change to the track, signal or station layout, even in adjacent civil works like overpasses, should be reviewed by all in a 3D setting to minimise risk and keep the system running. For example, drivers, train controllers, signallers, and signalling technicians must familiarise themselves with new track conditions, such as modifications to the track layout, inclinations, alignment, signage, signals, and visual markers.
Realistic simulations can significantly aid route risk assessment, facilitating the management of Risk Route Analyses (RRAs) by third parties, as well as reduce the risks and impacts of temporary speed restrictions (TSRs) on the network.
When operators and project teams do not use CGI operational readiness familiarisation and induction during rail changes, there is often an increased risk of Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs) and other related issues due to insufficient route knowledge and training depth. For instance, many clients, at significant cost and redundancy, use ‘tutor drivers’ on platforms to physically train drivers of changed track conditions and signalling. Doing Practical Run training for a changed route for hundreds of drivers costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is estimated for each route requalification process the cost is around $1.5m for 350 drivers, and over $2m in direct costs alone when the cohort is 700 drivers.
The cost of any SPAD is very high to the network, and just one of these incidents can immediately highlight the value of investing in Urban CGI induction railway training simulations.
We spent many years developing a CGI-based training system for Victorian rail operators, over 20 projects, where up to 1000 rail pilots, train controllers, and signallers are re-qualified per instance. As a result of this process, our route requalification induction training systems and workflow has reduced training costs by around $20 million over the 20 projects. Further, CGI route railway training inductions are delivered offline in 8 weeks and can reduce commissioning impacts on construction by handing back 14-16 weeks into the construction and operations schedule. If every construction site day is worth only $10,000, then 15 weeks handed back to construction or operations is worth a minimum $1m in recouped costs and programme de-risking.
Thousands of railway staff now access and view our training materials online using their tablets, phones, or computers for route refreshers and revisions as needed, even after a new route is open. This supports the powerful concept of perpetual re-accreditation to deepen and enrich knowledge of critical systems and factors. Learn more about our railway track inductions and route familiarisation and our training for rail drivers and train controllers in rail upgrades.
Railway plant, equipment, and asset inductions
Rail industry safety inductions and training
Site access inductions in railway training
Workers must complete general and specialised inductions and training courses before entering the rail corridor (for example, working in a tunnel or electrified area typically has specific regulatory induction requirements). Rail networks and construction contractors may also have protocols and rules to communicate to workers before site access is granted. This process encourages safety, consistency, and efficiency across worksites, confirming that those permitted to work on railways are suitably trained and qualified.
In many rail upgrades, there is often intense time pressure to construct complex infrastructure projects in restricted timeframes and then seamlessly integrate them with the operational network. These demands can require inductions for thousands of industrial workers and operators rapidly – within days and weeks.
The need for induction training can surge for a range of reasons, such as the unexpected discovery of a heritage site requiring specialist input, or a sudden influx of new workers. These scenarios can cause project delays, additional staff and rostering requirements, and increased administrative burdens and training pressures. If workers are brought in from different regions or countries, these staff may also need to undergo local induction training, adding to the complexity and cost.
Training of operational staff is now a critical bottleneck in infrastructure upgrades, especially in rail, often moreso than construction capacity.– Rail transport director, Australia
Given the growing volume of construction work in the railway sector, having staff who are competently trained and quickly inducted into these dynamic environments is critical.
Urban CGI industry training solutions address this need, offering real-time walkthroughs, interactive familiarisation video animations, and/or virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) procedures that deliver site-specific training. These can be delivered remotely, in depot and online. Any of our products can be repurposed as needed for different formats – tablets, desktop, web, AR/VR, phone etc.
Our CGI training delivers direct benefits to construction teams, often dramatically reducing commissioning times – an anticipated two-week commissioning window reduced to 1-2 days, for example.
Read more about our railway site access inductions here.
Safely Access the Rail Corridor online training (SARC)
SARC training is an Australian requirement for rail industry workers, ensuring that individuals operating in or around the rail corridor danger zone understand the necessary safety protocols to minimise risk. Similar rail corridor course prerequisites exist in other countries, such as the Personal Track Safety course – an essential qualification required by Network Rail in the UK.
The overarching goal of such programs is to ensure that people accessing or working within a rail corridor do so safely and are aware of the potential hazards. These programs promote proactive measures to protect the individual and others while complying with legislative and regulatory requirements. Urban CGI railway training simulations are immediately applicable to any rail corridor scenario.
Assessment must occur in workplace operational situations where it is appropriate to do so; where this is not appropriate, assessment must occur in simulated workplace operational situations that replicate a rail corridor.– Unit of competency details, TLIF2080 – Safely Access the Rail Corridor, Training.gov.au[iv] (emphasis added)
Supervised Worker track access training
The Public Transport Authority (PTA) Supervised Worker Safeworking training is a compulsory base-level requirement for all Rail Industry Worker card holders in Western Australia, equipping workers with the ability to identify and mitigate hazards within the rail corridor. Staff operating at this level of RIW rail card access must be supervised by a Track Force Protection Officer (TFPO) to ensure their safety and cannot venture into the rail corridor without direct supervision.
Large numbers of staff sometimes need to undertake Supervised Worker Safeworking training at one time, which traditionally involves a day-long classroom course and is often booked out well in advance.
We create instructional resources across all Safeworking levels, helping you achieve Supervised Worker compliance (accreditation & reaccreditation) much faster. We also produce similar training materials for qualifications in other jurisdictions in AAA visual simulation quality with a high level of precision.
Track inspection training
Railway emergency response training
Rolling stock training courses/track vehicle operator training
Passenger embarking / disembarking – boarding procedures
Shunting in railway involves sorting and moving rolling stock or railroad cars within a yard, transferring them from track to track, and organising and preparing trains for their next journey. Shunter training courses are aided immensely by simulation-based exercises, helping participants develop competency in directing locomotives, managing track switches, following signalling procedures, and using emerging technologies within the railway shunting yard, such as preparing remote-operated or autonomous trains for departure. These complex processes are much easier to comprehend and grasp when delivered via realistic 3D CGI training.
Railway coupling and uncoupling training – manual and electrical
Safe loading and unloading of railcars
Railway loading and unloading necessitates familiarity with infrastructure and machinery such as conveyor belts, chutes, mechanical arms, and cranes, and may entail the usage of tie-downs, lashing, and other mechanisms to secure loads, minimising the risk of cargo movement or loss during transport. Training might encompass manual handling techniques to safely and effectively manage load types across different routes and environmental conditions. These could range from loading large machinery onto a flatbed car to unloading pallets of goods in a busy urban rail yard in the pouring rain. Trainees may also learn end-of-shift procedures, which may involve everything from shutting down systems and securing the train to paperwork documenting the shift’s activities. Urban CGI training provides comprehensive, simulation-based modules that help trainees grasp these procedures without the risks associated with on-the-job training.
Developing proficiency in radio skills and railway communication systems
How can Urban CGI help you?
These examples are just some of the ways our CGI simulations can be used within railway inductions and training. We offer a wide array of railroad training services in addition to our comprehensive railway planning services and stakeholder engagement toolkit. We offer ongoing technical support, with the ability to update training resources promptly as requested, so material remains current, meeting competency requirements and aligning with evolving industry standards.
We pride ourselves on delivering agile, flexible railway education materials enriched with interactive learning strategies, driving high-quality outcomes. Our training resources are developed in iterative collaboration with client operational readiness teams, with expert input as necessary. Our eLearning resources are provided as a suite of HD (1920 x 1080p) high-fidelity MP4 CGI videos, interactive training technology platforms, and online portals. For more examples of the possible formats, please visit our Industry Training page.
If you would like to learn more about how we can meet your induction and training needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
[i] Young, C., Jones, R. N., Heenetigala, K., Ooi, D., Lung, S., and Parry, N., Reimagining the workforce: the Victorian rolling stock context, Literature review, Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia (2020)
[ii] Australian Industry Standards, Skills forecast 2019: Rail Industry Reference Committee, Australian Industry Reference Committee, Melbourne, Australia (2019)
[iii] Anna Fraszczyk and Janene Piip, Barriers to eLearning in rail, Elsevier B.V., ScienceDirect (2020)
[iv] Unit of competency details, TLIF2080 – Safely Access the Rail Corridor, Training.gov.au (2016)