Task-induced fatigue when implementing high grades of railway automation

  • Niels Brandenburger
  • Anja NaumannEmail author
  • Meike Jipp
Original Article


The study was focused on the effects of different grades of railway automation on task-induced fatigue and workload in train drivers and, when considering high grades of automation, operational staff in a control centre, so-called train operators. Train operators remotely monitor and manually drive automated trains upon system request during disruptions. As the task environment substantially differs depending on the grade of automation, effects on task- induced fatigue and workload levels were expected. To quantify and compare these effects, a simulator study with professional train drivers (N = 32) was conducted and the grade of automation was manipulated experimentally between subjects according to the railway specific automation taxonomy. Fatigue was assessed by the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale prior to and after a simulated working period of 2 h. Workload was assessed using the NASA-TLX. The results showed (a) significantly increasing fatigue levels over time (b) significantly higher fatigue ratings as a result of working with an intermediate grade of automation in comparison to working with a high grade of automation. Workload scores were (c) significantly higher in the high grade of automation group. Consequently, the introduction of high grades of automation may be used to tackle longstanding fatigue issues associated with train driving. The role of workload and limitations of the current research are discussed and recommendations for future research and operating companies are provided.


Train driver Train operator Grades of automation Remote operation Fatigue Rail automation Rail human factors Levels of automation 



This work was part of the projects Next Generation Train and Next Generation Railway Systems of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). These projects are funded by the Helmholtz Association.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Aerospace Center (DLR)Institute of Transportation SystemsBerlinGermany

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