Taught course

High Speed Train and Track Systems

Heriot-Watt University · School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

Entry requirements

Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in cognate and semi-cognate subject area. For PG conversion programmes, non-cognate degrees will be considered. Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered.

Months of entry

January, September

Course content

Heriot-Watt's new MSc in High Speed Train and Track Systems provides students with a thorough understanding of the principles, practices and technological developments relevant to the high speed rail sector. Students in this programme will develop an in-depth appreciation of the emerging research and development, recent engineering challenges as well as future trends in the rail industry, both in the UK and internationally. Delivered by the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, this programme offers participants the tools to understand and manage the design, operational and contractual requirements of railway systems.

The High Speed Train and Track Systems programme is delivered by experts in the field of high speed railway engineering, covering a wide range of relevant disciplines including:

  • High speed track design and train operations
  • Ground vibrations
  • Railway vehicle dynamics and advanced rolling stock modelling
  • Vehicle-infrastructure interaction
  • Life-cycle costs of railway equipment

Our students

The programme is designed for civil and mechanical engineering as well as physics graduates who wish to develop an understanding of the principles, scientific developments and technology relevant to the international railway industry. We also welcome applications from professionals already working in the railway sector and from students and graduates from other backgrounds planning to develop a career in the high speed rail industry.

Career opportunities

Graduates with specialised skills and expertise in developing, designing and operating modern railway systems are highly sought after in the rail industry. Currently there is a worldwide shortage of individuals qualified in this area and there are significant opportunities for graduates to contribute to a broad range of roles in a number of sectors in the rail industry, including:

  • Civil engineering construction companies;
  • Rail infrastructure managers;
  • Train manufacturers;
  • Vehicle and infrastructure maintenance companies;
  • Regulatory bodies;
  • Engineering SMEs involved in the railway supply chain.

Part-time and Distance Learning study options

The High Speed Train and Track Systems programme can be studied full-time, part-time or via Independent Distance Learning (IDL), ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. As an IDL student you will not be required to attend any lectures, tutorials or other events at any of Heriot-Watt University's campuses.

Industry links

The direct relationship between the High Speed Train and Track Systems masters programme and industry needs is reinforced in two ways: a) through projects with an industrial context, and; b) through specific aspects of the taught courses, for example, through presentation of case studies and seminars as well as visiting lecturers from relevant sectors.

The programme also benefits from the close contacts that exist between members of staff and a large number of rail industry players, which promote the transfer of knowledge between industry and academia and allow adapting the contents of the courses to market needs, ensuring our graduates will be highly qualified engineers ready to contribute to the profession.

Teaching and research excellence

The Programme Leader, Dr João Pombo, is a specialist in railway dynamics with 18 years’ experience and has been involved in the development of several computer codes with applications to railway engineering. He has led and participated in several projects in close collaboration with leading international research centres and industry players. He also has more than three years’ working experience at BOMBARDIER and ALSTOM. João Pombo is author of more than 80 papers in refereed journals and international conferences. He is the editor-in-chief of the “International Journal of Railway Technology” and chairman of the "International Conference on Railway Technology" series.

The High Speed Train and Track Systems teaching staff is engaged in a wide range of funded research and associated activities and the course contents are informed by the latest research outcomes, representing the state-of-the-art in each area of knowledge. We have a wide ranging expertise in specialist subjects which include high speed track design and train operations, ground vibrations, railway vehicle dynamics and advanced rolling stock modelling, vehicle-infrastructure interaction, numerical modelling and experimental testing.

Information for international students

If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Please visit our Scholarships and fees pages for information on funding.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
84 months
full time
12 months
part time
24 months


distance learning
84 months
part time
24 months
full time
12 months

Course contact details

Dr João Pombo
+44 (0) 131 451 8368