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All change: Virtual becomes a reality for training in the UK rail industry

The use of virtual reality simulation in commercial training is gathering momentum. This week, Rail Minister Claire Perry opened the new £7million National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton and I was delighted to show Claire and other industry officials attending the launch just how much training has evolved in UK rail industry today.

PAULEY has developed the state-of-the-art virtual reality immersive training suite which sits at the hub of NTAR. We’ve used a combination of 3D modelling, virtual reality headsets and touch screen technology to deliver a real-life ‘hands on’ learning experience that will inspire and educate the next generation of engineers and apprentices and upskill people within the industry as well as those entering from other sectors.

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This is the first time that virtual reality headsets have been used for commercial training in the rail industry. It was great to see NTAR General Manager Simon Rennie’s vision coming to fruition and so many people trying out the fruits of our labour at the facility. In her opening speech, Claire highlighted the importance of joint industry and government initiatives like this in supporting economic growth, solving the burgeoning skills crisis in the rail industry and creating a world-class centre of excellence.

During the past six months we’ve transformed over 4,000 pages of training courses into 25 interactive learning modules, giving students the opportunity to get to grips with all of the critical components and warning systems found inside today’s high-tech train cabs. By simply wearing a VR headset, trainees are able to familiarise themselves with the workings of a train, right down to the nuts and bolts, in a safe and effective learning environment that just wouldn’t be possible down on the railway tracks or through traditional paper-based and classroom training techniques.

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For years e-learning and other methods of digital training have aspired to create an experience that closely replicates the classroom environment. At NTAR, we’re bringing training alive by using virtual reality to create a highly immersive, engaging and hands-on-learning experience that is far superior to classroom training.

Industry analyst Juniper forecasts that by 2020 some 30 million virtual reality headsets will be sold globally for consumer and business use, with hardware retail revenues set to exceed £3bn.  This initiative demonstrates the potential of virtual reality to engage today’s tech-savvy learners and to develop critical technical skills that are urgently needed across a host of different industry sectors. We are very fortunate to be part of this new wave of learning and it’s great to see so much innovation and industry collaboration taking place right here in the UK rail industry.

If you’d like to explore how virtual reality could transform the way people learn in your organisation and try out our courses first hand then do please get in touch.

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