Talking to Myself – Part 2: Risk Triggered Commentary


Risk Triggered Commentary (RTC) has been developed using techniques, which have evolved many years and used widely within the transportation industry, particularly airlines and shipping. It is a technique which when used correctly, assists in retaining focus, situational awareness and information. RTC involves Train Drivers speaking aloud what they observe as a potential high risk situation. By following this process, drivers can listen to their thoughts and the subsequent actions they are planning to do – allowing them to ‘sense check’ what they should do next. RTC involves not just repeating what the Train Driver sees, but also the action required to take. For example, “ATP has given a target speed of 60km/h – Brake Step 3, once I reach 1500m on the ‘Distance to Next Target Indicator’.”

Our memory is divided into two sections, our long-term memory which is everything we have learnt, seen, heard and experienced, etc. throughout our lives. This is by far the biggest section. The other, smaller section is our short term memory, which is what is going on now, at any one time. Research tells us that information enters the long-term memory via our short-term memory.

For instance, remember back to when you first learnt about the EMU or Locomotive. The information first entered your short-term memory and on the way home you may well have forgotten some of that day’s learning. However, this information eventually transitioned to the long term memory hence why now, you can recall the amount of procedures without picking up a manual.

Short Term Memory:

· Has limited capacity of around 7 items

· It can only store information for between 8 and 18 seconds

· Information will need to be remembered before it enters the Long Term


Should a new piece of information be presented to your short term memory, it will happen to retain it BUT it will dump one of the existing seven that were there before.

There is no particular order; your brain will simply dump whichever piece of information it chooses. If this information is important, this can lead to difficulties and danger.

RTC techniques can keep info you deem important in your short term memory.

Risk Triggered Commentary:

· Keeps essential information in the working memory;

· One way of aiding the process is using verbal rehearsal and repetition (speaking and repeating);

RTC Driving is aimed to ensure that he risk is identified and action is taken to deal with the risk.

RTC is NOT mandatory. The technique, when used, should be in relation to risk areas outlined in route guidance, it is just one technique that Train Drivers may choose to use to aid their ‘SITUATIONAL AWARENESS’.

Examples include:

· Approaching Emergency Speed Restrictions

· During Degraded Mode, helping the Train Driver to focus on the task

· Approaching signals at danger

Summary of benefits;

· RTC helps improve the retention of critical information

· Aids memory recall that you require to act professionally

· Helps the Train Driver stay focused and control potential distractions when approaching route risks

· Combats fatigue by confirming sensory activity

· RTC is an aid to avoiding operational safety incidents

· RTC avoids Stopping Short and Wrong Side Door opening.

Know your risks; highlight them to yourself; and think about your actions and the need to respond appropriately.

NOTE: RTC should not be used if you find the process takes too much effort and becomes a distraction from driving the train. You should interrupt RTC when you have to deal with incoming information from safety systems and radio messages within the cab. Do not restart RTC until you feel it safe to do so. There is also the potential for over-use, such as a Train Driver slipping into Commentary Driving rather than RTC Driving, resulting in the failure to identify risks.


1. Arriva Trains Wales – RTC Booklet
2. First Capital Connect – Driver Instructors Handbook April 2012
3. Wikipedia


4 thoughts on “Talking to Myself – Part 2: Risk Triggered Commentary

  1. Hi Jade
    I have 14 years experience in the driving grade from depot driver, mainline driver, driving instructor and now driver manager for greater Anglia. just strolled onto your blog doing some further research into RTC, press and call etc… I really like your blogs very professional with great advice and technics for all Drivers.


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