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Work. 2014 Jan 1;47(3):339-52. doi: 10.3233/WOR-131705.

Understanding the visual skills and strategies of train drivers in the urban rail environment.

Author information

  • Central Queensland University, Wayville, SA, Australia Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.



Due to the growth of information in the urban rail environment, there is a need to better understand the ergonomics profile underpinning the visual behaviours in train drivers.


The aim of this study was to examine the tasks and activities of urban/metropolitan passenger train drivers in order to better understand the nature of the visual demands in their task activities.


Data were collected from 34 passenger train drivers in four different Australian states. The research approach used a novel participative ergonomics methodology that fused interviews and observations with generative tools. Data analysis was conducted thematically.


Results suggested participants did not so much drive their trains, as manage the intensity of visually demanding work held in their environment. The density of this information and the opacity of the task, invoked an ergonomics profile more closely aligned with diagnostic and error detection than actual train regulation.


The paper discusses the relative proportion of strategies corresponding with specific tasks, the visual-perceptual load in substantive activities, and the requisite visual skills behoving navigation in the urban rail environment. These findings provide the basis for developing measures of complexity to further specify the visual demands in passenger train driving.


Train driving; ergonomics profiling; knowledge elicitation; perceptual load; rail navigation

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