A Team Drives the Train: Human Factors in Train Controller Perspectives of the Controller-Driver Dynamic

  • Anjum NaweedEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 823)


Signal passed at danger events (SPADs) impact safety-risk on rail networks, despite the introduction of novel technologies aimed at addressing their cause and effect. Much of the rail safety literature has had a tendency to focus on activities within the cab, placing a spotlight on “errors” within the train driving role. However, a train is not propelled by a single person—is it is propelled by a tightly-coupled team where driving and train controlling activities are distributed but must work in concert. This study set out to understand how controllers perceive the controller-driver dynamic, and how these perspectives impact upon SPAD-risk. Interviews were conducted with 35 train controllers from 6 rail organisations across Australia and New Zealand. Data were collected using the SITT forward scenario simulation method and analysed using conventional content analysis. Eleven different perspectives were identified, ranging in type and varying by frequency, each with implications for the strength of the coupling in distributed cognition between the controller and driver roles and with implications for SPAD-risk. How these perspectives may influence controller-driver dynamics are illustrated using sample scenarios from the data. The findings emphasise key dimensions of the teaming factors in the movement of trains and illustrate how the underlying values and philosophies in different train controlling cultures influence safety. Findings are discussed in the context of obtaining a holistic and more informed model of train driving.


Train controllers SPAD-risk Teamwork 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Appleton Institute for Behavioural ScienceCentral Queensland UniversityRockhamptonAustralia

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