Virtual training for Finch West LRT

Ensuring light rail vehicle (LRV) operators are ready for any scenario is a top priority for the Finch West LRT.

To assist with operator training, Mosaic, Alstom and Metrolinx acquired a virtual reality LRV training simulation machine and installed it at the Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF). The machine was built at Alstom’s global headquarters in France and assembled at the MSF upon arrival in March. The control panel is an exact replica of the Finch West LRT LRVs, providing operators the most immersive experience possible.

The only outlier is interesting; there is an Xbox controller on the operating system’s main panel. The Xbox controller is there in case the operator wants to walk throughout the LRV, from end-to-end. It helps with the pre-departure check, ensuring lights are on and that the doors are opening and closing properly. While useful in the simulation, Xbox controllers will not be in the real LRV control panel cabs.

Following departure, the simulator’s program runs through a partial reconstruction of the Finch West LRT alignment and takes approximately 45 minutes to run the scenario.

The Setup

While the simulator takes up most of the space in its room, there is a control room with viewing windows directly behind it so the operator can be monitored in real-time. The control panel is comprised of three monitors; the left one presents the “scenario” or route the LRV will be taking, the middle monitor reflects the conditions the operator sees on their control panel and the right monitor mirrors the operator’s screen, also in real-time.

In another adjacent room, there is a flatscreen TV monitor where other operators can watch the simulation live to see what their colleague is doing during the simulated run.

Real-Time Scenarios

When performing a simulation, those monitoring at the control panel in the viewing room can implement real life scenarios to test the operator’s reaction. These scenarios include cars making a turn into the LRV’s pathway, sudden pedestrian appearances in front of the LRV and simulated mechanical issues. The point is to ensure operators are trained and ready for anything that can happen.

Weather conditions can vary widely as well; this includes sunny days with clear skies all the way to whiteout blizzard conditions and everything in between.

Immersive Learning Experience

With the popularity of interactive video learning tools, this virtual experience will be beneficial for operators and encourage participation in additional training experiences, enhancing safety on the line. It is a fantastic way for operators to become comfortable behind the control panel and to prepare them for real-life scenarios on the main line.

“This is an amazing training tool,” said Steve Ciona, Commissioning Manager. “With a fleet of just 18 LRVs with anywhere from 35-70 to operators, we must seize every training opportunity we have and this is perfect! It can provide thousands of hours of additional training, which will help operators familiarize themselves with the LRV control panel and the Finch West LRT main line, improving operator, commuter and pedestrian safety. Aside from the real thing, this is the next best thing.”

Certification Requirements

Once the LRT becomes operational, it will have at least 35 Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operators driving LRVs, with a maximum headcount of 70. Each operator must amass 40 hours of “seat time” training on the Finch West LRT alignment before they can be certified to operate an LRV on the main line. Alstom, the manufacturer of the LRVs, will have operators onsite as well, but they will be limited to movements in the MSF yard only.

Even if a TTC operator is fully trained on another LRV alignment, they are required to be properly trained and certified for Finch West LRT operations.

While practicing operations on the simulator does not count as “seat time” training, it does help operators familiarize themselves with the LRV’s control panel and the Finch West LRT alignment.