Rail operator ProRail is facing an ever-increasing shortage of dispatchers. Last year, the company launched additional campaigns to recruit people. But recruiting new people has not solved the problem yet. After all, training to become a dispatcher quickly takes nine months. ProRail therefore called in RailConnect and InTraffic to train people externally.
Training of signallers
ProRail normally trains its own dispatchers internally. For the new, external training, an additional simulation set had to be built. This is a recreated workplace of a ProRail traffic control station. "A dispatcher's workstation consists of eight different screens running a dozen different applications," explains Edwin Winterkamp of InTraffic.
"It was up to us to recreate ProRail's traffic control station in a digital environment for training purposes. That way, trainee dispatchers can learn and practice safely, but without disrupting operations." This additional training kit allows ProRail to continue its own training program without having to share equipment.
The training itself is provided by RailConnect. Founder and owner Philip Hupkes himself worked at ProRail for eleven years, first in train traffic control and then in the management team. Six years ago he started RailConnect, a rail consultancy that also provides training. Currently, RailConnect is working on building the training course for dispatchers. Putting together the curriculum, recruiting trainers and developing the simulation software with InTraffic.
"We want the system and the training to be as flexible as possible. Digital where possible and physical where necessary. Especially now in corona time, we want people to be able to learn as much as possible from home or at least not necessarily have to be at ProRail's traffic control stations," Hupkes said. "We offer maximum flexibility with our own digital traffic control environment."
"We have now demonstrated that this is possible independently of the ProRail system. For now, this is done in our test center in Amersfoort, but soon it will be done largely from home. By making the forms of learning even more flexible, we can train people from all over the country. That saves them a lot of travel time. We will start with a class of 6 people. I expect we will be able to train 18 to 24 candidates this year. After that, it will be 30 to 50. If the demand is big enough, it could be as many as 100. One trainer will soon be able to
at least four participants per class at the same time. The training itself is both virtual and physical."
InTraffic built the infrastructure in the short span of five months. Winterkamp: "We have the knowledge to recreate such a workplace, but a lot of time goes into taking stock of what is needed, then it has to be realized and we look for the right suppliers of the applications, the necessary telephony et cetera."
"We have benefited greatly from the cooperation with ProRail for both training and infrastructure," Hupkes adds. "They share all training documentation with us from their own training institute. The openness with which
they proceed I find daring and clever. They also help with the software and equipment by buying together or helping to order the right stuff."
The training itself is tailored to the participants as much as possible, according to Hupkes. "Customized learning means that we take into account that each participant learns in a different way. One person likes to dive into theory with the help of books and then put it into practice. Another, on the contrary, wants to practice as much as possible in practice. It varies from student to student. In any case, what we find very important is that everyone who becomes a dispatcher also experiences what it is like outside on the tracks. To see
see and feel for themselves. Seeing what a train driver's job entails and that of the safety people."
After four to six months of successful training, dispatchers are certified. Then they have to work under the supervision of an experienced dispatcher for another three months, which is done by ProRail itself. With that, the entire training program lasts a total of nine months.