Short courses


Rail Systems (Systems Engineering)

  • 35 hours + plus independent study for assessment (if applicable)
  • 5 days


This short course will help you understand urban and inter-urban rail systems, their key elements and functions.

You'll also learn about systems engineering practice and processes and how these can be used in complex transport projects.

The course approaches rail transport projects from a whole-system viewpoint, and encourages interdisciplinary thinking.

The course is run by staff from the UCL Centre for Systems Engineering (UCLse) within UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL).

Course content

Topics covered will include:

  • Systems engineering principles
  • Structure of the UK rail industry
  • Transport stakeholders and requirements
  • Transport appraisal
  • Rail operations
  • Lifecycle of modern rail systems
  • System architecture and system design
  • Modelling for rail systems
  • In-service systems
  • System integration and validation
  • Railway signalling and control
  • Rolling stock
  • Interfaces management
  • System assurance
  • Risk management

Who the course is for

This course is for those working in the railway sector who want to embed their knowledge in a systems engineering context, as well as those wishing to gain exposure to the railway sector.

It's suitable for:

  • engineering consultants
  • transportation engineers
  • railway managers
  • railway engineers
  • systems engineers
  • inspectors and technicians
  • railway systems contractors
  • policy makers
  • public works professionals

You'll benefit from this course even if you're not a specialist in this field, or have no prior railway engineering training or education, but are currently working in the rail sector (or plan to be).

Teaching, structure and assessment

This is a blended course involving both in-person and remote teaching.

It's delivered as a combination of interactive lectures, group exercises and case studies where the taught concepts are applied.

This course is an optional module within UCLse's Master's degree programmes. You can take this course as either:

  • a standalone short course
  • a 'taster module' that allows you to earn UCL credits towards a Master's degree

To earn UCL credits you'll need to complete an assessment. For more details on this option, please contact the course administrator. 

Learning outcomes

This short course will help you to:

  • gain a working knowledge of railway systems engineering and many of the basic concepts used for intercity passenger, urban light rail transit systems and metropolitan underground systems
  • understand the basis of good systems engineering practice and processes and how to best apply them in rail
  • analyse the principles of planning and laying out modern, competitive, reliable, and safe railways
  • discuss the applicable rules, regulations, standards, specifications and other railway best practices


The fee for the short course is £1,450.

To take as a taster module and earn UCL credits, the fee is:

  • £1,681 for UK/EU 
  • £2,512 for overseas

Discounts may be available for the short course. Contact uclse.courses@ucl.ac.uk for more information.

Course team

Helena Andrés Hilarión

Helena Andrés Hilarión

Helena is a Teaching Fellow at the UCL Centre for Systems Engineering, where she completed an MSc on Management of Complex Projects. She also holds a Civil Engineering five-year degree from the Polytechnic University of Catalunya. She previously worked in industry for SENER and SYSTRA on the development of complex rail projects in Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico. Her professional responsibilities spanned several life-cycle phases and she served in engineering as well as technical management capacities within intercultural teams.

Doug Cowper

Doug Cowper

Doug is a UCL Visiting Professor in Systems Engineering and has over 20 years of industrial experience working on various aspects of systems in the defence, aerospace and rail sectors. He has a proven track record of delivering systems engineering, technical management and governance and technology decision making with a diverse range of organisations. He's also led a number of working groups developing the definition and teaching of systems engineering core competencies in the UK.

Matthew Whyndham

Matthew Whyndham

Matthew is a practising project manager and research scientist in UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics. Most of his work has been in the instrumentation field. He's the Departmental Graduate Tutor responsible for MSc programmes in Systems Engineering Management and Space Science and Engineering. He teaches topics in space technology, technology management and project management within these programmes, and is a lead tutor in UCL's APM accredited project management course.

Course information last modified: 1 Nov 2021, 13:22