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Train operations set to go digital

16 October 2014, 11:08 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – Rift Valley Railway (RVR) is training 135 train drivers on operating locomotives using a newly acquired train simulator, a computerized system that improves the operator’s skill and performance in addition to making the train efficient to operate.

The train simulator which cost the company KES 160 million allows the programming of data gathered from different sections of the railway line to simulate a range of parameters as the driver navigates through corners, junctions and level crossing places using a large video display of the track.

RVR’s Senior Systems Specialist, Samuel Kahiga, said, “This will optimize train operating conditions reducing the number of incidents, cut transit time and reduce fuel consumption which increases our capacity to move more cargo for customers.”  

“A topography team mapped our entire mainline track from Mombasa to Kampala which means drivers can have a true-life experience of driving on the railway before getting into a train,” he added.

Kahiga said all trains both for cargo and commuters have already been configured to the computerized system as the company waits to receive 20 American-built locomotives by April 2015 purchased at KES 2.2 billion and installed with General Electric engines.

Also read: RVR acquires more trains to revamp rail transport

In addition to 135 drivers undergoing training to operate the improvised trains, RVR seeks to employ 40 drivers aged 22 years and above to undergo similar training in preparation of operating locomotives to be doubled by the end of June 2015.

“We have already deployed three of the 20 US-made locomotives we expect to receive by April next year. We are looking forward to enlist 40 new train drivers and develop their skills with this equipment in readiness for this extra locomotive capacity,” said Cosma Gatere, the RVR Director of Communication.

Jaafar Okeng’o, an RVR train driver who is already trained said, “The simulator gives you a real experience of the many controls in the train cabin and allows you to test tricky sections along the railway track in advance. This makes it easier and faster to get it right when you’re actually driving the train.”

RVR purchased the train simulator from the New York Air Brake Corporation, a leading producer of high-technology train control systems for the rail industry worldwide.

In July 2014, RVR commissioned two high capacity railway track maintenance machines that automate and hasten track restoration. Both the Ballast Tamper and Ballast Profiler machines arrange displaced ballast and restore the track to the technically required geometric alignment at a speed of one kilometer per hour compared to only 40 meters per hour using manual processes.

The company has also rehabilitated 73 kilometres of railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi and installed a GPS-based train operating technology on all trains. This aimed at cutting cargo transit times between the two cities by six hours.

RVR has further rebuilt nine crumbling culverts near Jinja allowing direct movement of heavy trains to Uganda in addition to expanding its fleet of wagons through on-going overhaul and rehabilitation programmes at its Nairobi and Kampala workshops.

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