Train drivers can learn how to handle emergencies resulting from extreme weather conditions or farm animals on the track thanks to a new virtual reality simulator.
Designers at Teesside University's Virtual Reality Centre, who worked with York-based Corus Rail Consultancies, said their system allowed drivers to learn about new stretches of track before they got into a train's cab.
Each simulation earns the university £35,000. Janice Webster, director of the VR Centre, said: "It is a very flexible system that enables drivers to learn about a track in realistic conditions on their personal computer. And we can create different conditions using the technology so the driver may suddenly be exposed to hail, thunder and lighting, or even have to deal with a cow on the track."
Jim Veitch, director of railway systems for Corus Rail Consultancies, said:
"To do the route familiarisation using trains costs time and money and disrupts the network. This system enables the drivers to familiarise themselves with the layouts. They are able to view the routes as many times as they need to."
The VR Centre uses similar technologies for airport fire brigades, with a VR simulation of a stricken passenger aircraft landing at an airport.