Ergonomic and HF study of control rooms to optimise resource deployment

Author: Kenneth Yin Chan and Che Son Chang
Day: Aspect Day Two
Session: Human Factors

For modern railway operation whereby millions of passengers are being transported each day within a mass transit system operated in a metropolitan city, safety and reliability are two most critical factors being managed by any railway operator. With the introduction of driverless operation to these railway networks that are operated under short headway, train service management including real time train regulation will be largely performed by the experienced traffic controllers located centrally in Operation Control Center (OCC). While the industry is putting much effort in upgrading the design of the modern signalling systems that would allow trains to run without drivers at higher speed and in shorter safe separation distance, the railway operators also recognise the importance of designing and building a suitable OCC that would allow operators and maintainers to deliver the safe and reliable rail services in a 24/7 manner covering peak periods and different festive seasons in the year whereby overnight non-stop services may be required. The design of the control center does not only cover the structural, architectural and technical system provision but more importantly the ergonomic and human factors aspects which are essential to the operators who work in this workplace during their work shift to ensure smooth and safe operation as well as to have speedy recovery during incidents that may arise during their work shift. The criticality of the OCC is magnified when OCC is also acting as the first point of contact with all the passengers inside the trains that are being operated in the driverless mode. The authors, who have been recently involving in the ergonomic and human factors studies and reviews of a few railway OCC's in the South East Asian cities for driverless operation as Ergonomic Consultants, have adopted a systematic and structural approach in the process in order to establish the organisation structure for the OCC operation including the number of headcounts required for each operator position so as to satisfactorily perform the tasks assigned for OCC operation. Three key analyses have been conducted, namely Hierarchical Task Analysis, Communication Analysis and Workload Analysis, in each OCC ergonomic study work and these pave the way for the conduct of the subsequent human factors and environmental review for the design of the OCC. This includes temperature, acoustic effect, colour and even the choice of material for the construction of the control rooms. Cultural factor is another key parameter that has to be taken into consideration in this review exercise. In this Paper, the authors will share with the readers the details of this ergonomic and human factor study processes being adopted for the design of OCC, the problems and challenges being encountered and the characteristics of the outcome of the study works. Two real case studies will be used to illustrate the ergonomic design processes adopted and to demonstrate the differences between a greenfield project and a brownfield project (an operating railway to be converted from non-driverless to driverless operation) with respect to the OCC design / re-design work.