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HOF in Cab Design

About this topic


The rail network cannot function without its rolling stock, and those trains cannot operate without a driver to keep them moving (driverless trains notwithstanding!). The train cab functions as the control workspace for a driver, and its design is important in ensuring safe and effective train operations. Like the cockpit of an airplane for a pilot, the train cab supports the driver to perform all of the tasks required to navigate their train around the rail system. It is therefore important that the design of the train cab takes account of driver tasks and requirements so that it can effectively support their needs. 

Relevance to Rail

The design of the train cab contributes to the effectiveness of driver performance, and so to the overall reliability and efficiency of a rail network. As well as the point of train operation for the driver, the cab also provides the connection for the driver to the signalling control centre and to the passengers travelling on the train. Cab design must help accommodate the driver as they perform their key tasks, and as they interface with other elements of the network including stations, signals and other rail infrastructure. Good design can help a driver expertly manage the performance of their train, respond intuitively to train systems, maintain clear sighting of signals and infrastructure, and remain comfortable for the length of their driving shift. Poor design can contribute to incidents including Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs), wrong side door operation, communication error and musculoskeletal injury. 

HOF practitioners may be called on to provide expertise to the design of cabs for new rolling stock that integrate new technologies such as the European Train Control System (ETCS) or Computer-Based Train Control (CBTC). They may also be asked to help reduce the impact of poor design within existing cabs, as might have been identified following an incident or in response to driver feedback or injury data.  

Approaches and Methods

Analysis of the design and layout of a train cab by a HOF practitioner will typically include consideration of the following topics: 

  • Design and comfort of cab seating, including through the application of anthropometric data to ensure a range of users are accommodated; 
  • Design, operation and layout of controls and displays, including in terms of usability, visibility, reach and the mitigation of error from incorrect or accidental activation; 
  • Design and operation of safety and driver vigilance systems; 
  • Alarms and alarm management; 
  • Signal sighting, and visibility of signage and other rail infrastructure; 
  • Placement and operation of communications systems and CCTV; 
  • Access and egress from the ground and from the interfacing saloon car. 



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