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Virtual carriage could be the future for new recruits at Virgin Trains

Press release   •   Apr 02, 2019 07:00 BST

Image: an example of the virtual carriage created by students at Solihull College & University Centre
  • Solihull College & University Centre and Virgin Trains partner to create Virtual Reality carriage for new recruits
  • Technology could be used for health and safety training for on board and catering teams
  • Software created by students as part of their computing course

Virgin Trains has partnered with students to help develop virtual reality technology to aid training in health and safety for new recruits.

Students from Solihull College & University Centre’s computing degree level course have created a Virtual Reality (VR) carriage for Virgin Trains which could be used by trainee staff in the future.

Virgin Trains approached the college in October 2018 after members of its training team were impressed by the VR demos created by the students as part of their course.

The students developed software which recreates health and safety scenarios inside a virtual carriage kitchen. In putting trainees through their paces in VR, new staff can tackle safety issues in a virtual setting which can then be deployed in real time situations.

This includes dealing with kitchen related accidents on a moving train which could lead to injury.

The VR headset immediately transports the wearer to the “carriage” which mirrors a Virgin Train. Hand held devices are used to practice their duties “on board” and to deal with health and safety issues.

It is hoped VR could be used for safety initiatives and training for new members of the catering team, aiming to explore what might happen in a health and safety incident in a train kitchen.

A demonstration of the new technology was held earlier this month at Solihull College attended by Head of Safety for Virgin Trains, Garry Hall and IT Project Manager Richard Taylor along with On-Board Managers who tried out the new VR headsets.

Garry Hall, Head of Safety for Virgin Trains said: “The carriage is far more realistic than I expected, and the train is very close to the actual thing. It’s the first time Virgin Trains have taken part in a partnership project like this and the potential is massive.”

Andy Rennie Scrivens, On-Board Manager, added: “This project gives trainees the possibility to reach every area of the train, for training new starters or refresher training it could be a massive plus. The likeness to the kitchen is brilliant; I can see this being useful to everyone working at every level.”

Head of Computing at the College, Mohammed Mayer, commented: “This is the latest trend in training employers. Virtual technology can not only develop a simulation to create something simple like making a coffee but this can now extend to building an entire train carriage. This sort of project supports solving a real-life problem with VR technology. It has been a fantastic achievement by the students and one we hope to see implemented.”

About Virgin Trains

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the West Coast inter-city route under the Virgin Trains brand, revolutionising travel on one of the UK’s key rail arteries.

The network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains ahead of other long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

Virgin Trains has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme, introducing the industry-leading onboard entertainment streaming service, BEAM, and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

Virgin Trains operated the East Coast route between March 1, 2015 and June 24, 2018. In that time, we invested £75m to create a more personalised travel experience, including over £40m in the existing fleet. Customers have benefitted from 48 additional services between Edinburgh and London every week, and an extra 22 Saturday services between Leeds and London – a total of 1.74 million additional seats since May 2015.

Working together, the partnership railway of the public and private sectors has published a long-term plan, called In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, to change and improve Britain’s railway. The plan will secure almost £85bn of additional economic benefits to the country whilst enabling further investment and improvement, and contains four commitments which will see rail companies: strengthen our economic contribution to the country; improve customers’ satisfaction; boost the communities we serve; and, create more and better jobs in rail. For more information go to Britain Runs on Rail.

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