UCL Centre for Systems Engineering


Khumalo Mahluli


Khumalo Mahluli


Professor Alan Smith


Research Topic:  A Systems Engineering Framework to overcome delivery challenges for railway infrastructure projects

This is the initial research idea. It is subject to changes or modification particularly after more information has been obtained through the literature review phase.


This research work was initiated after discussions with Rail Industry colleagues in the face of much published reports on some rail infrastructure projects performance. It seemed apparent that the rail industry delivery processes have not embraced systems engineering (SE) concepts as much as is done by other organisations. So, the questions are – how is project performance rated? How did these state sponsored reports conclude that the projects were not performing as expected? How could the adoption of Systems engineering concepts improve project delivery?

Research Overview:

This research’s goal is to find out if the railway projects face project delivery difficulties as depicted by the above mentioned published reports, and then determine if and how SE processes can overcome them. The research will initially identify general project delivery success factors, and then determine how SE processes contributed to those factors. If indeed there is evidence from the literature review that SE affects project performance, the research will then narrow down to how SE contributes to Network Rail (NR) project performance, as the main player in the UK Rail Infrastructure Industry. The literature review will focus on answering the following questions:

  • How does SE affect Project Performance in the rail sector?
  • How does SE affect Project Performance in rail infrastructure manager organisations?

Narrowing down to SE effects on NR projects will involve data collection on selected NR infrastructure projects (target is 100 projects of mixed types and sizes) based on the following questions:

  • How does SE affect Project Performance in NR? Data to be collected for key SE measures derived from literature review
  • What are the success factors for NR projects? Evidence will be data from projects considered as successful vs those not so successful
  • How does SE affect Project Performance in NR projects of different types – for example, enhancements, renewals, new developments

If the findings of the literature research and data analysis prove that SE processes are indeed a key driver for project performance in general and for NR in particular, then these findings together with lessons from other industries, and adaptation of international standards, will be used to develop a tailored SE framework/model for NR infrastructure projects.