In 2020, the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) concluded the UK Rail sector faces ‘serious systemic issues with regards to skills shortages that will escalate significantly over the next five years without swift action’. Approximately 28% of workers in rail are over 50 and some 15,000 workers are due to retire by 2025.
Train maintenance knowledge is drawn from existing systems and maintenance instructions - but is rarely accessible at the time it is needed, is time consuming to find, and is hard to navigate, especially for new recruits. This is exacerbated by tacit knowledge being held by engineers nearing retirement age. Training currently requires specific rigs at specific locations, causing delays and backlogs to training schedules. The Augmented Maintenance project aims to help overcome these challenges.
Initially, the Augmented Maintenance project will produce an augmented reality learning tool relating to fixing and maintaining train doors. It will target UK based rail engineers, 30,000 apprenticeships plus reskilling those already in work. It will allow learners to access the knowledge of experienced, retiring engineers, and will reduce dependency on physical training locations.
There are many training needs beyond door maintenance in this sector and the plan is that more modules will be developed covering other rail asset and sub-system training needs. The Rail Safety and Standards Board concluded that there is an appetite within the industry for this type of technology to create ‘good quality, engaging and streamlined learning material’ confirming the huge potential for the Augmented Maintenance project to scale up in the future.