Newcastle United football heroes John Beresford and Joe Allon have sampled a very different form of training – at the controls of a 125 mph East Coast express!
The popular duo tried their hand on a high-tech driving simulator at Newcastle Central Station, to kick off a drive to promote a wide variety of further education courses to rail staff in the city.
The event followed a successful open day for staff at Newcastle station, organised by East Coast in partnership with rail unions ASLEF, TSSA and RMT, to promote learning and educational opportunities both within and beyond the railway.
John said: “The simulator is very realistic – right down to the landmarks alongside the track leaving Newcastle. It’s a real eye-opener to see how quickly the train driver has to think ahead and react at the controls.
“Learning something new is always positive – that’s why Joe and myself are keen to help East Coast raise awareness of the learning opportunities for hundreds of rail staff based at Central Station.”
East Coast’s Driver Manager at Newcastle, Bob Howes, was an apprentice player with the Magpies in his youth. Bob said: “Both John and Joe enjoy the lifelong affection of United supporters – left-back John for his memorable performances in Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ team in the early 1990s, and striker Joe for his great goals across five years with the Toon from 1984 to 1988.
“When I was a young apprentice with Newcastle United, they still made sure I went along to North Tyneside College once a week to continue my education. We’re already planning a second event for rail staff and the support from two legends of St James’ Park is very encouraging.
“It was great to watch John and Joe enjoying the chance to swap the training ground for the train on our state-of-the-art driving simulator. Our simulator has the ability to reproduce real-life driving scenarios – right down to producing fog, rain or even snow on the line ahead.”
The driving simulator is one of four based at East Coast driver depots in Newcastle, Edinburgh, Leeds and London King’s Cross. Each features an exact replica complete with all the controls and gauges of the real thing. The simulator can be adapted in seconds to depict either of East Coast’s two types of motive power – the Class 91 electric locomotive or the Class 43 diesel High Speed Train.
In front of the simulator, a large full colour projector screen shows an accurate reproduction of key sections of the East Coast Main Line – with the Tyneside simulator showing the line between Newcastle and Alnmouth stations, complete with famous landmarks such as the city’s Castle Keep.