With China's high-speed railway technology being increasingly used across the country as well as in other parts of the world, demand for bullet train drivers is on the rise.
The country's largest training center for such drivers, which is in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, has so far trained about 190,000 people from 18 regional railway companies across China.
The center also offers training for overseas workers. Since 2015, professionals from 28 countries, including Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Kenya, have come to the center for short-term training.
The center, administered by China State Railway Group, offers training to a variety of workers involved in high-speed railway operations and maintenance, such as drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and those responsible for power supply and signals.
The center has 16 high-speed railway driving simulation cabins, which cover all types of bullet trains.
All layout and equipment in the simulator is consistent with that of real bullet trains, including the views from the front and sides, with the train platform, buildings and scenery on both sides mimicking real scenery.
Trainees can also experience the sensation of real speed when operating the simulation system.
"The driver's console, including the braking and traction system, is built on a one-to-one ratio, imitating the real operation platform. It feels the same as a real bullet train, and the devices are updated synchronously with the scene," said Liu Weigang, a teacher at the training center.
He noted that no matter what happens in simulation driving, such as equipment errors or a change of weather, the situation will feel very real for the driver. For example, the teacher can switch the outdoor environment status randomly to test students' adaptability, such as simulating a storm, gale-force winds or a "foreign object".
When the status is turned to storm mode, the trainee has to adjust accordingly. When it is changed to gale mode, the simulator cabin begins to shake, and the trainee should reduce speed. When a foreign object such as a kite is discovered hanging on the electric system, the trainee should cut off electricity and stop the train.
Before entering the center, the prospective student is required to operate regular trains for a certain number of kilometers and accumulate experience, Liu said.
At the center, the student has to complete 240 hours of theoretical training and 270 hours of practical training, he said, adding that simulation and test driving on real bullet trains is also required.
Liu noted that after a student finishes, a license is needed before the trainee is allowed to drive a bullet train.
Guo Xingyou, a 27-year-old trainee, said: "The simulation system feels very real. I can improve my practical skills, which I cannot learn from theoretical lessons."
In March, vocational school presidents from Thailand visited the center, becoming the first overseas group received by the center since the COVID-19 outbreak.
They sat in the simulator for a "test drive" and spoke highly of China's high-speed railway system, which has seen rapid development in the past 15 years.
By the end of last year, the country's high-speed railway network covered 42,000 km, accounting for more than two-thirds of the world's high-speed railway lines.
According to China State Railway Group, the nation has developed the most comprehensive technologies and gained the richest railway management experience in the world.