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Understanding how train dispatchers manage and control trains : results of a cognitive task analysis
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Understanding how train dispatchers manage and control trains : results of a cognitive task analysis
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    Final Report April 1998- December 1998
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  • Abstract:
    This report documents the results of a preliminary Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) that examined how experienced train dispatchers manage and

    schedule trains in today's environment The objective was to understand the cognitive demands placed on train dispatchers and the strategies

    that experienced dispatchers have developed in response to those demands, as an input to guide development and design ofdigital

    communication systems and advanced information displays. A hybrid methodology was used that combined field observations at two train

    dispatch centers (one that primarily handles passenger trains and one that primarily handles freight trains) with structured interviews of

    experienced train dispatchers.

    The results reveal that dispatching is a cognitively demanding task. Dispatchers have developed a variety of strategies that smooth the way for

    trains to pass through territories safely and efficiently and satisfy the multiple demands placed on track use. These include techniques to: off

    load memory requirements; extract information about train movement and track activity to support anticipation and planning; take advantage of

    windows of opportunity to satisfy the multiple demands placed on track use; and level workload. Many of these strategies depend heavily on

    communication and coordination among individuals distributed across time and space.

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