Taught course

Railway Safety and Control Systems

University of Birmingham · Department of Civil Engineering

Entry requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Engineering, Physics, Economics or Mathematics).

All applicants will be asked to attend an interview to support their application and determine their suitability to the programme.

Practical experience will also be taken into account. If you have no or limited industry experience you will be required to attend the introductory course.

Months of entry


Course content

Our programme in Railway Safety and Control provides an all-round level of knowledge and education and equips the next generation of industry leaders. It provides you with the opportunity to delve deeper into risk/safety management or railway communications including the digital railway.

Railway safety and control systems are both vitally important worldwide, for not only the ongoing operation of existing railways, but also for the design and the development of new systems. Much work is being done by companies involved in both mainline and urban transportation systems to design safe systems, for the public, their passengers and their workforce.

This Railway Safety and Control Systems programme focuses on risk and safety systems design; risk and safety systems operation; and communication and control systems (including signalling). Efficient communication and control of operations, together with the prevention of the loss of life and livelihood associated with railway crashes and incidents, are high priorities for all organisations involved.

We recognise that each transport sector and mode has its own specific features but seek to ensure that a common approach is taken to the generic issues involved in ensuring dependable operations. As a result, you will develop a deep and robust understanding of approaches to manage safety and control in transport systems and projects, taking advantage of expertise from two leading UK universities.

The Railway Safety and Control Systems programme is delivered jointly by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham and the High Integrity Systems Engineering (HISE) Group at the University of York. The York modules are highly structured around the general topics of risk and safety management, while the Birmingham portion of the programme focuses on railway systems communications and control, and the application of risk management principles. As a result, this course will give you a thorough education and knowledge which can take you into many areas of engineering and business management, as well as in signalling, communications or safety-specific functions of railway or transportation organisations.

This programme will give you a deep and robust understanding of the approaches to managing safety and associated issues in transport systems and related projects. The programme has three possible pathways for:

  • Railway risk and safety systems: this pathway emphasises systems engineering and safety in critical systems, for designing new safety systems.
  • Railway risk and safety operations and organisation: this pathway emphasises management and safety throughout the system's lifecycle, for engineers and managers who will be responsible for the safe operation of a railway system.
  • Railway communications and control (include signalling): completion of this pathway, to PG Diploma or MSc level, is aimed at exemption from the institution of Railway Signalling Engineers' (IRSE's) examination to Professional Railway Signalling Engineer recognition. It includes theory and practice in railway control systems; one module is a practice-based in signalling and control systems.

Why study Railway Safety and Control Systems MSc/Diploma/Certificate at Birmingham?

-160 drop-in study spaces for flexible learning and 20 flexi bays for staff and student interaction

-Study in our new £16.4M UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems (CEDS) with the opportunity to work alongside leading industrial collaborators

-Provides an opportunity to work on your specific sponsored projects and network globally

  • The Railway Safety and Control Systems one does this as well as giving the opportunity to delve deeper into risk/safety management or railway communications, including the digital railway.
  • A major benefit of this course is that it enables you to consider the broader aspects of railway systems and how they interact. Many major projects fail at the interdisciplinary interfaces, and this is precisely the area where the MSc course can assist.
  • It allows you to work at a more senior level, on major projects, and to understand when the ‘technical experts' were not fully appreciative of the interfaces with other disciplines and the latent problems that were developing.
  • We’re Europe’s largest and most diverse railway research & education group with extensive links into industry. What this means is that students benefit from learning about rail and rail systems from the fundamentals which everyone needs to know, through to the latest research and industrial applications.
  • We have extensive laboratories and facilities both on and off our campus for carrying out research in railway engineering. Facilities include railway system simulators, wind tunnel, electronics laboratories, pantograph testing rig, robotic arms, a railway track foundation rig, plus other equipment. We also have an aerodynamic moving-model testing facility for high-speed trains.

The course is accredited by the Joint Board of Moderators (Institution of Structural Engineers, Institution of Civil Engineers, Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation, Institute of Highway Engineers).

Information for international students

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band).

Fees and funding

Funding opportunities are available.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MSc
    part time
    24-36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • PGCert
    part time
    24-36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • PGDip
    part time
    24-36 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Admissions Team