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Ricardo Rail research on ETCS braking behaviour

ricardo braking

A ground-breaking study conducted by researchers from Netherlands Railways (NS) and Ricardo Rail has focused on understanding driver braking behaviour with ETCS (European Train Control System) braking curves, shedding light on crucial aspects of modelling, feasibility, and capacity expectations.

The primary objective of the research, led by Pieter van der Beek, was to explore the feasibility of planning assumptions and capacity expectations while aiming to maximise line capacity.

The key to achieving this lies in the ability of drivers to maintain train speed as closely as possible to the permitted speed braking curve without surpassing it.

“Utilising a comprehensive approach, the research incorporated literature reviews, interviews, and a focus group to compile a list of factors influencing train drivers’ braking behaviour within the context of ETCS,” van der Beek said.

“Simulator research played a pivotal role in the study, involving nine experienced train drivers navigating future high-capacity ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) infrastructure.

“The investigation encompassed the natural behaviour of drivers, as well as three variants of behaviour influenced by external factors.”

Van der beek said the simulator data, complemented by subjective insights gathered through observations and semi-structured interviews, revealed several noteworthy conclusions.

Among the key findings, it was observed that drivers tend to maintain a margin to the P-curve (probability curve), with factors such as delays and instructions serving to reduce this margin.

“Importantly, a smaller margin requires more effort from the drivers, indicating a delicate balance between safety and efficiency,” he said.

“Furthermore, the study revealed that providing explicit instructions to reduce this margin might be met with resistance from drivers.

“In essence, this research provides valuable insights into the intricate dynamics of driver behaviour with ETCS braking curves, offering a nuanced understanding of the factors influencing decision-making during braking.

“The findings hold significant implications for optimising line capacity, ensuring both safety and efficiency in the ever-evolving landscape of rail transport.

“As rail systems continue to advance, understanding and adapting to the intricacies of driver behaviour are crucial steps toward achieving the full potential of high-capacity ERTMS-infrastructure.”