HS2 uses augmented reality to train staff in rail 'super hub' of the future

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by Rebekah Valero-Lee on


  • HS2 uses augmented reality to train staff who will run Old Oak Common

  • Pioneering project sees collaboration between National College of High Speed Rail, WSP, Inventya and PAULEY

  • Find out how this isn't the first time we've seen AR and VR being used by HS2 to educate and engage

In a UK-first, 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 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 augmented reality (AR) training for the station’s future staff.

HS2 Ltd’s Stations Director, Mike Luddy, said:

“From its earliest days Old Oak Common will be one of the UK’s busiest and best-connected stations. Serving both HS2 and the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) it is designed to handle around 275,000 passengers every day. 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 augmented reality 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.

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.”

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen HS2 and the National College for High Speed Rail use new technology to educate and engage. Last year we toured the National College for High-Speed Rail (NCHSR) in Birmingham and saw first hand how they we’re using virtual and augmented reality to engage and train the next generation of rail talent.

During the tour we caught up with Neil Brayshaw, director of technical training at NCHSR, about the need to equip students more effectively for employment and his ideas on ways to get children into engineering and major projects such as HS2.

Neil Brayshaw described the technology:

At NCHSR we’re trying to change the mindset of what engineering, what construction, what HS2 is about.

I’ve got a pink train here (the #Brumstar), where you can put on a headset and drive from Euston to Paris. That’s exciting to me! Imagine for a 6-year-old how fantastic that would be. For them to go away and say ‘I’ve been in the pink train today’ I think that will stay with them for a long time. Rather than looking at it in a book or on a screen they can go in there and drive the train.

Check out the video below to see an exclusive tour of the train from Neil and how to drive it using virtual reality!


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