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Train Prep no longer necessary?


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Apparently we’re going to have a “world beating,” railway, (to go with our other world-beating schemes like test and trace) and a key part of it is that it is no longer apparently necessary to physically walk round a train because of computers or something.

 

 

“Nothing, evidently, must be done to put safety at risk. But just as it is no longer necessary to check the oil in a car by opening the bonnet and inspecting the dipstick, for there is a light on the dashboard which will tell you if more oil is needed, so it is no longer necessary for each train to be checked every 24 hours by a driver who walks all round it at ground level, on a path wide enough to keep out of the way of other trains, and well lit enough to be used at night.

 

The unions insist on this ritual, which has become a ridiculous waste of the highly paid driver’s time, and of taxpayers’ money. Like modern cars, modern trains tell you when something goes wrong.”

 

 

If you care to read the rest of the article (which I’m sure isn’t just dog-whistling about unions and pay to the usual suspects) it’s here: https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2020/11/shapps-has-spotted-a-once-in-a-lifetime-chance-to-give-britain-world-class-railways.html

 

My favourite part is where the article talks about lack of railway knowledge in the DfT causing problems, but then goes on to make claims about what's possible in the rail industry from an evident position of total ignorance.

 

Edited by NorthEndCab
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  • NorthEndCab changed the title to Train Prep no longer necessary?

Granted on some TOCs the prep is done by depot staff rather than main line drivers , and in that respect perhaps the article is getting at utilising those drivers more efficiently (and arguably reducing headcount and thus the wage bill).

 

But unless the rulebook is dramatically watered down , trains will still need inspecting and preparing for service - it may well be that the type of checks and the frequency of them change , but they still need to happen.

 

And unlike a car , a train driver can't really ignore some of the faults and warning lights , not least because it would contravene Health & Safety law ( defective AWS/TPWS) , or in some cases the train won't be able to move because the fault causes a brake application.

 

I think the key word from that quote posted is "Dipstick" - evidently it was written by one with minimal knowledge of how the industry works , which is the main reason that some of the issues it faces now exist.

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One problem with that analogy is that oil level is not the only thing that can be wrong with your car.  So I don't need to check the oil level but I still need to check the tyre pressure, wash water level, whether the lights are working and such (OK, the dashboard lights tell me when wash water level is running low but usually only part way through the trip, not whether I have enough at the start of the journey).

 

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Computer / warning lights won't tell the train driver if

 

Bits are hanging off, perhaps fouling the gauge, or could cause derailment if not attended to immediately,

Windows etc broken 

Vandalism has occurred whilst parked

etc etc.

 

Slippery slope.

 

Brit15

 

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Drivers and depot staff still miss scotches, 'Not to be moved' boards and fuel/water hoses attached, so the human is not the only answer. If you can teach a door monitoring camera to tell the difference between a person and a wheelchair then you caan teach it to recognise a NTBM board. 

 

Having said that I wouldn't trust any politician to check his own flies never mind anything remotely technical. 

 

Edit - Now I've read the whole article properly, some of it actually makes sense. Like reforming the comedy fares structure and not letting the DfT meddle in things it knows nothing about (such as transport). Oh dear, I think I'm going to have to lie down in a darkened room, I'm agreeing with a Tory journalist. 

Edited by Wheatley
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36 minutes ago, eastglosmog said:

One problem with that analogy is that oil level is not the only thing that can be wrong with your car.  So I don't need to check the oil level but I still need to check the tyre pressure, wash water level, whether the lights are working and such (OK, the dashboard lights tell me when wash water level is running low but usually only part way through the trip, not whether I have enough at the start of the journey).

 

 

or whether the tyres are completely bald  :tender:

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Don't let these people anywhere near a fork lift truck or any sort of crane.

I have seen more than enough accidents even in situations when the operator has carried out a comprehensive check.

Machinery can be dangerous if not treated with respect.

Fortunately train crews have a very good attitude to their own safety and that of their passengers.

Far more  than some right wing think tank numpties it would seem.

Bernard

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11 minutes ago, Wheatley said:

Drivers and depot staff still miss scotches, 'Not to be moved' boards and fuel/water hoses attached, so the human is not the only answer. If you can teach a door monitoring camera to tell the difference between a person and a wheelchair then you caan teach it to recognise a NTBM board. 

 

Having said that I wouldn't trust any politician to check his own flies never mind anything remotely technical. 

 

Central Rivers depot has an AVIS system , where all arriving trains pass through a device that effectively laser scans the underframe looking for defects and measuring brake pad wear etc - this presumably doing away with the staff that carried out the same tasks manually , so again the technology exists. Whether they want to pay for it is a different matter entirely.

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It mentions the Victoria Line & DLR are driverless. This is not so.

Both are automatic, but all Victoria Line trains still have a driver & all DLR trains have a 'captain'. Both  are fully capable of taking control of the train when required.

The same is true on the Central Line. I have had a cab ride on there & I was told that at some point of the journey, the train would stop halfway along the platform...it did, but the driver just put the train in "Coded Manual" & carried on until the stop board. The driver does not just sit there either. Apart from opening the doors & giving the train clearance to depart, there are regularly alarms going off, telling the driver what is going on & he is also able to assess things about the train which the on-board computer may not notice.

 

The article suggests that the computer will flag up any faults. Computers are not infallible as MCAS has proved on the 737MAX.

Well trained pilots should have been able to override it, but the design brief of the 737 MAX was that existing 737NG pilots can fly it with a short tablet based training course instead of several weeks of expensive simulator training.

 

In the same way, railways will still need well trained drivers, not partially trained ones. They will always need good knowledge of how their train should work & how well it is running.

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IIRC there was a recent RAIB report which mentioned that trains at a certain depot did not need prepping before their first duty in the morning, if this was less than 8 hours since they were 'put to bed' (as it were).

i.e they were checked over last thing before disposal.

(Might have been just referring to a full brake test, something like that anyway).

Unfortunately, I can't remember the incident in question, or if it was as a result of the above instruction.

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58 minutes ago, keefer said:

IIRC there was a recent RAIB report which mentioned that trains at a certain depot did not need prepping before their first duty in the morning, if this was less than 8 hours since they were 'put to bed' (as it were).

i.e they were checked over last thing before disposal.

(Might have been just referring to a full brake test, something like that anyway).

Unfortunately, I can't remember the incident in question, or if it was as a result of the above instruction.

It was a recent incident where an instructor had isolated the brake between the train and the loco while doing some instruction on the loco. When he handed it back the brake was not reconnected and no brake test was deemed necessary due to the 8hours agreement. The train failed to stop.... 

 

 Andi

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2 hours ago, keefer said:

IIRC there was a recent RAIB report which mentioned that trains at a certain depot did not need prepping before their first duty in the morning, if this was less than 8 hours since they were 'put to bed' (as it were).

i.e they were checked over last thing before disposal.

(Might have been just referring to a full brake test, something like that anyway).

Unfortunately, I can't remember the incident in question, or if it was as a result of the above instruction.

Crofton West Junction: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safety-digest-062020-crofton-west-junction

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9 hours ago, APOLLO said:

Computer / warning lights won't tell the train driver if

 

Bits are hanging off, perhaps fouling the gauge, or could cause derailment if not attended to immediately,

Windows etc broken 

Vandalism has occurred whilst parked

etc etc.

 

Slippery slope.

 

Brit15

 

 

Erm, something like this, you mean?

 

photo0023.jpg.ef1649f87da1b6832ea5fbd33c3058bf.jpg

 

photo0022.jpg.84000cef643bd5dba0db5d65fed6fcd0.jpg

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Just to add some context to that last post;

The location's Heaton Depot, and that's the set I was due to take out into service.

The photo's were taken for the benefit of York Control, who of course promptly declared it a failure - that was a de-wirement looking for somewhere to happen!

 

On the Azumas full prep's done by Hitachi's own tech staff who then issue a 'fitness to run' certificate to each cab. Drivers however still do a part prep, or 'mobilisation' on taking a set into service, mostly involving checking the safety systems. On one occasion during training doing this, I found we had no brake on one of the coaches. That turned out to be a circuit breaker on the adjoining coach tripped (something else Hitachi hadn't told us about) and the only indication was doing the brake sequence test - going through the TMS to the brake screen and observing the pressure on each coach while making brake applications - there was no fault alert that something was wrong.

Edited by Ken.W
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27 minutes ago, Ken.W said:

Just to add some context to that last post;

The location's Heaton Depot, and that's the set I was due to take out into service.

The photo's were taken for the benefit of York Control, who of course promptly declared it a failure - that was a de-wirement looking for somewhere to happen!

 

On the Azumas full prep's done by Hitachi's own tech staff who then issue a 'fitness to run' certificate to each cab. Drivers however still do a part prep, or 'mobilisation' on taking a set into service, mostly involving checking the safety systems. On one occasion during training doing this, I found we had no brake on one of the coaches. That turned out to be a circuit breaker on the adjoining coach tripped (something else Hitachi hadn't told us about) and the only indication was doing the brake sequence test - going through the TMS to the brake screen and observing the pressure on each coach while making brake applications - there was no fault alert that something was wrong.

Not quite a prepping issue but definitely a sensor one, was the 222  that went merrily zooming though the Leicestershire countryside with a door wide open and full interlock a few years ago. 

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Aircraft have pre flight checks.  I don't know about the modern computer driven ones but 50+ years ago RAF Service types, more recent light aircraft and vintage examples all had a well established series of checks in a book of words.  I have never in all my time flown an aircraft without doing a full pre flight check and I would not want to. After all it was my soft little body that was going to be in it. I should imagine it would be the same with drivers on the railway.

Old age catches up with you and I am no longer flying so now qualify for being an old pilot. There was a saying: "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old bold pilots".

 

best wishes,

 

Ian

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On 29/11/2020 at 01:16, NorthEndCab said:

Apparently we’re going to have a “world beating,” railway, (to go with our other world-beating schemes like test and trace) and a key part of it is that it is no longer apparently necessary to physically walk round a train because of computers or something.

 

 

“Nothing, evidently, must be done to put safety at risk. But just as it is no longer necessary to check the oil in a car by opening the bonnet and inspecting the dipstick, for there is a light on the dashboard which will tell you if more oil is needed, so it is no longer necessary for each train to be checked every 24 hours by a driver who walks all round it at ground level, on a path wide enough to keep out of the way of other trains, and well lit enough to be used at night.

 

The unions insist on this ritual, which has become a ridiculous waste of the highly paid driver’s time, and of taxpayers’ money. Like modern cars, modern trains tell you when something goes wrong.”

 

 

If you care to read the rest of the article (which I’m sure isn’t just dog-whistling about unions and pay to the usual suspects) it’s here: https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2020/11/shapps-has-spotted-a-once-in-a-lifetime-chance-to-give-britain-world-class-railways.html

 

My favourite part is where the article talks about lack of railway knowledge in the DfT causing problems, but then goes on to make claims about what's possible in the rail industry from an evident position of total ignorance.

 

It's plainly wrong on so many grounds.

 

For starters, if your driving a late model car, you probably don't need to top up the oil between scheduled servicing, so you can get away with not checking the oil.

 

However, if your vehicle has clocked up a few years or a high mileage, then oil leaks or usage is going to occur and so will need topping up.

 

Then there is the issue of breaking down. If you're in a road vehicle, you can usually stop relatively safely and can call for roadside assistance. With a train or as Ian Kirk has stated with flying, that option is usually NOT available.

A train becoming immobilised is an instant bottle neck, with the line BLOCKED until specialised rescue is available, often with another loco. Until that is achieved, the line remains closed until the train is cleared, this can often take hours.

 

The plane option, doesn't bear thinking about, you could be stuck 'up there', all day!

 

But perhaps there is an easy solution, in that the train crews do their prep checks IN THEIR OWN TIME, which is probably where the original author is aiming at!

 

Agreed, total ignorance from someone who doesn't and never will understand the purpose of checks.

 

 

As an aside, I've just heard from someone (he works there, but not on duty today) that the control centre at Melbourne Airport had to stop planes taking off, due to a burst water pipe in the ceiling.

I presume that the writer of that article, would insist that the controllers, just put on wet weather gear and KEEP WORKING.

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Maybe they think anyone can drive a train because you don't need to steer, oh hang on, they may think you do have to steer. Never make the mistake of overestimating a political researcher's intelligence,  

Cars have lights to tell when the oil is low because the morons who drive them can't be assed to open the bonnet, they call in the garage when the engine packs up and say "Oh I wondered what that light was."

Bring back the wheel tapper, that's what I say.

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On 28/11/2020 at 14:25, Grovenor said:

Note that "Conservativehome.com" is not the government.

The article is unashamedly party political.

It puts thoughts on policy into the minds of Conservative Party politicians, though. Some of the writers, bloggers, etc., become MPs (see Geoffrey Howe)

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7 hours ago, kevinlms said:

 

For starters, if your driving a late model car, you probably don't need to top up the oil between scheduled servicing, so you can get away with not checking the oil.

 

But perhaps there is an easy solution, in that the train crews do their prep checks IN THEIR OWN TIME, which is probably where the original author is aiming at!

 

A sensor can fail without the system realising. I have seen this on a car.

A friend of mine had an Elan which would not run for more than a couple of minutes. It was showing no warning light on the dash.

Somebody wrote a program to log data from the ECU. It was reading -20c from its coolant temperature sender. The car is designed to work in a particular temperature range (probably -30 to 150c) so it did not consider -20c to be a problem.

The ECU was therefore providing fuel for the conditions it believed were correct, which is exactly what a computer should do.

I was standing outdoors wearing jeans & a t-shirt, so I could feel it was not -20c. It is exactly why we need to have a well trained person ready & able to override anything which may be wrong.

The principles are the same in a car, train or aircraft: The system reacts to what the sensors are telling it. They are only considered faulty if the reading it outside pre-determined limits, but they can give false readings within these limits.

 

Why should train crews do their prep checks in their own time? I doubt anyone on here would be in favour of this.

 

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