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HS2 uses augmented reality to train Old Oak Common station future staff

In a UK-first, the company delivering Britain’s new high-speed rail network is using augmented reality to train the staff who will eventually run the Old Oak Common ‘super hub’ – set to be one of the UK’s busiest and best-connected stations.

Old Oak Common railway station’s initial groundwork has started and full construction will begin later in 2019, but HS2 is harnessing augmented reality (AR) so that the station’s future staff can learn the skills required to make sure one of Britain’s busiest railway stations will run like clockwork from day one.

The pioneering project sees HS2 Ltd partner with high-tech S.M.E., PAULEY; the National College for High Speed Rail; and Inventya. Together they will work with Old Oak Common station designers, specialist engineers WSP, to develop AR training for the station’s future staff.

Serving both HS2 and the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) Old Oak Common is designed to handle approximately 275,000 passengers every day.

HS2 Ltd’s Stations Director, Mike Luddy, said: “To accommodate that number of people in a pleasant, safe and efficient environment, it’s crucial that staff know the station’s workings in detail. The challenge is that Old Oak Common station hasn’t been built yet. So, to train the station’s entirely new workforce with the skills and knowledge they will need, we must innovate.”

“Through this project, which is supported by Innovate UK and the DfT, we’re harnessing the power of digital technology to build Old Oak Common in augmented reality.”

Future staff entering an AR world will be trained in delivering a great customer experience, station maintenance and safety so they can develop the skills to efficiently manage the station before ever setting foot in it.

The AR training will have spin-off benefits for developing Old Oak Common station itself. Trainees can provide feedback to its designers on their experience of running the super hub, so plans can be honed before it is built and help avoid making later and costly changes to the building itself.

PAULEY’s Founder and Managing Director, Philip Pauley, said: “We’re only starting to harness the power of augmented reality. Few people really get what it is and what it can do. The technology we’re bringing to HS2 enables the wearer to see Old Oak Common station in minute detail. It unlocks huge opportunities to explore, test and refine a digital replica of the station years before the passengers arrive.”

WSP Technical Director, John Harding, said: “This technology will enable us to future proof Old Oak Common station design. In future it can be used at other stations not just for training but for all staff following a refurbishment or upgrade.”

National College for High Speed Rail’s CEO, Clair Mowbray, said: “The National College for High Speed Rail is delighted to be part of this collaborative project, which will support the development of training programmes for train station staff using the latest interactive technologies.”

Inventya Project Manager, Andrew Kent, said: “Through the use of immersive technology, their research is set to improve the user experience of future train travellers, and we’re excited to be part of the journey.”

The station will be built on the former Great Western railway depot at Old Oak Common. HS2 is currently working to clear the site and prepare the ground for the start of construction towards the end of 2019.

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