November 2009 in Freight Operations
Route knowledge and train handling experience is lacking for Freightliner drivers on the East Coast line, according to one reporter. Freightliner uses the West Coast line for most of their operations, but occasionally - for example, when there is engineering work - operations are diverted along the East Coast line between Carstairs and York. But when drivers are expected to work this route in such circumstances, they often feel neither safe nor comfortable. There are no timetabled services on this route, so drivers will rarely drive it.
Some drivers have been asked to drive the route when they haven't done so for over a year. Refresher training for route knowledge is normally required every six months to keep a driver up to date. If a driver voices concern over this, a journey up or down the route with an instructor may be arranged, but only in a locomotive in daylight, rather than a fully loaded train.
In the reporter's view, it is critical to gain the train handling experience on the West Coast line in order to gauge the feel of a 1,400 tonne train on the different gradients of a particular route, and gain firsthand experience of the stopping distances involved.
Being comfortable with the reality of driving at night along an unfamiliar route is also thought to be important, though it is not currently factored in to Freightliner's approach to route learning.
The reporter suggests that:
With regards to route knowledge and train handling experience on the east coast, our drivers are refreshed over the route twice a year to maintain route knowledge, although we try to keep this strictly to six monthly this is not always possible due to working constraints, however we do not ask drivers to work over this route if the six month period lapses.
The norm for any route learning or revision is carried out utilising one of our services, but as this is not possible due to no fixed train services over the route, our driving instructor at Mossend is utilised and accompanies all drivers over a two day period over the route, this is normally carried out during daylight hours to identify to the drivers any changes to route risks or characteristics etc as per the the Train Crew Manual.
As we do not work trains over the route unless an emergency situation arises, then there is the obvious difficulty of lack of train handling, however this must also be said for the many other diversionary routes throughout the whole rail network for all the rail operators.