16.5.2023 | Rail

Freightliner opens its first Operational Training Academy

The subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. officially opened its first Operational Training Academy based in Ipswich, Suffolk.

The Operational Training Academy will be used to prepare Freightliner’s freight train drivers for the in-cab digital signalling that is to be introduced on the East Coast Main Line.

Digital signalling, based on the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), uses state-of-the-art technology to provide continuous signalling information through a screen in the driver’s cab. This improves reliability, makes rail even safer, reduces emissions, and delivers more flexibility in rail operations. 

ERTMS is expected to deliver the ability to run longer, heavier, and faster freight trains on the UK network – encouraging the movement of freight on rail and lowering emissions.  Train drivers will be given continuous live information regarding speed and braking requirements, with the safeguard of automatic train protection (ATP).

Blake Jones, Freightliner Managing Director – Rail Services, said, “Freightliner is delighted to be part of this programme, and we recognise the important role ERTMS plays in making our railways safer for both railway workers and the general public.”

The East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP)

The Academy is being funded as part of the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) – a £1 billion transformation that will deliver digital signalling on the southern part of the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Stoke Tunnels (near Grantham) by the end of the decade.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor, ECDP, said: “Freightliner is an integral ECDP partner and is working collaboratively to ensure the programme’s benefits are delivered in full. The Academy opening is an important part of delivering the change required and will help us provide a legacy of new capability within the rail industry.”

The Academy

Freightliner’s vision is for the Academy to endure beyond ECDP. The new site, which contains three classrooms, learning spaces and new learning resources, is already hosting train drivers starting their ERTMS training. A dedicated team of Operational Trainers has been created to support the learning. Later in May 2023, the site’s activity gains momentum, with the first cohort of Ipswich-based trainee train drivers joining the business.

Louise Ward, Freightliner’s Safety and Sustainability Director, said: “Freightliner continues to invest in the training of its people. The use of simulators allows drivers to apply their classroom knowledge in a practical and safe environment supporting a more comprehensive learning experience.”

The ultra-light simulators will be exclusively used for training from Autumn 2023, when Freightliner’s first Class 66V locomotive goes in for the fitment of ERTMS technology.