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Recovering time or chasing rainbows? : exploring time perception, conceptualization of time recovery, and time pressure mitigation in train driving

journal contribution
posted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Anjum NaweedAnjum Naweed, Sophia Rainbird
Background: A Signal Passed at Danger (SPAD) happens when a train passes a rail signal set to a stop indication and encroaches into railway where it does not have authority to be. In this respect, it is rather like a car going through a red light. SPAD events continue to impact safety risk on railways, despite the introduction of technologies aimed at addressing their cause and effect. Previous work has identified time pressure, and certain aspects of the way train drivers (Locomotive Engineers) and controllers (Dispatchers) interact, as key risk factors. Exposure to these could give rise to distraction and/or inattention from safe driving, distort service delivery requirements, and fundamentally alter the driver’s perception of risk. Purpose: This study undertook a new and more specialized analysis of existing data to investigate how drivers perceived time and conceptualized its loss and recovery within their driving task, and how they mitigated time pressure. Methods: Focus groups were conducted with train drivers from eight urban passenger rail organisations across Australia and New Zealand using a generative scenario simulation task. Results: Drivers had varying perspectives of time, either as a fixed aspect of the task, or as something that was uncontrollable. However, every driver perceived time as an aspect of the task that was being patrolled. Time pressure mitigation strategies associated with reprioritizing tasks and molding time were identified, both of which had specific relationships with other themes. A conceptual model is given integrating the findings of this study to previous work. Conclusions: Train drivers have diverse perspectives of the time requirement of their task, which influences their understanding of time loss and recovery. Whilst some strategies to mitigate time pressure aim to reprioritize sub-tasks, others aim to remove time requirements fromservice delivery goals altogether. The three time-related themes and related mitigated strategies were novel to the study conducted and reported in this manuscript.


Category 4 - CRC Research Income













Taylor & Francis



Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

Appleton Institute for Behavioural Sciences; Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation; School of Human, Health and Social Sciences (2013- );

Era Eligible

  • Yes


IIE transactions on occupational ergonomics and human factors.