The MSc programme in Railway Systems Engineering is designed to be truly interdisciplinary, with a strong focus on developing individuals' skills and the overarching objective of creating a thorough understanding of the principles of designing and operating modern railway systems and of interface management. Most participants are experienced railway engineers sponsored by their employers to study for a specialist qualification which allows them to work on complex projects. The Rail Systems programme is built around eight modules of 15 credits each and an integrating dissertation attracting 60 credits. Each assessed module involves about 27 hours of teaching, 10 hours of tutorials, a major team exercise and 50 hours of independent study. The assessment of students' learning is based on class tests, assignments and end of year examinations. All modules are assessed individually to allow flexible study.
MATHS: Mathematics as an Engineering Tool
This module was introduced to allow students without a first degree to cover the main mathematical tools needed to undertake the MSc programme in railway systems engineering. The module includes a limited introduction to standard A-level mathematics, the generation of differential equations from the physical characteristics of systems, the use of engineering software tools like MATLAB and the application of standard software tools (Excel etc.) to engineering tasks. The module is optional for students with a first degree in a numerate subject. The industrial advisory group to the programme suggested the establishment of the module because they are conscious of the large number of staff in the railway industry who are employed in graduate level jobs but who do not have a first degree. An additional fee is payable for this course.
MEC6202 Part 1: Introduction Days
This weekend course prepares the new cohorts of students for the challenges ahead. It consists of a brief introduction to railway systems engineering, a team exercise to get the group to interact, a lecture on the history of railways, a lecture on the legislative and financial background of the European railway industry and an in-depth analysis of the structure of the British railway industry as well as an introduction to freight railway operations and to human factors. The course also includes a substantial element of skills development, in particular, the students are given a thorough grounding in academic writing. The course includes a visit to a railway maintenance depot.
MEC6202 Part 2: Rail Operations & Management
This module covers the range of railway management and operations activities, from demand based railway planning through to inter-modal freight transport operations, all based on an interpretation of the special characteristics of the rail mode of transport which was developed for the MSc Programme. Areas addressed include asset maintenance and management, marketing, safety cases and rolling stock acceptance issues, freight and passenger train services, human resource management, the British railway industry structure and environmental issues, as well as operations management for the rail industry. Normally, the module also includes a short seminar on a topic of current importance for the industry. The module is supported by the industry with speakers and includes a visit to a track systems plant. It is run by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield.
MEC6203: Mechanical Aspects of Railway Systems
The starting point for this module is the wheel rail interface which is discussed in some detail, particularly in the light of the recent problems of gauge corner cracking. The module includes lectures on rail vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, bodyshell design and crashworthiness issues, choice of materials, active suspension and tilting systems as well as an introduction to the economic issues in rail vehicle construction, maintenance and use. A visit to a rolling stock manufacturing plant forms part of the module. This module is run by staff from the University of Loughborough and Manchester Metropolitan University, with guest speakers from industry and input from the University of Sheffield.
LABS: Laboratory Week
Three and two days respectively are allocated to laboratory work associated with modules MEC6203 and MEC6204. The mechanical aspects are covered by laboratory experiments on the dynamics of mechanical systems, an introduction to CAD and FE work and an overview of dynamic modelling tools such as Vampire and Adams Rail. The electrical aspects are covered by two practical experiments covering DC and AC machines and traction drives respectively.
MEC6204: Fundamentals of Railway Traction Systems
The traction systems module is conceptually the most difficult course for most of the students since it covers all aspects of traction power from diesel engines through to modern pulse width converter systems. Individual lectures deal with the basic physics of railway traction, autonomous and diesel traction, friction and electric braking systems, DC and AC motor design, power converters from rectifiers to PWM converters, AC and DC supply systems, train detection and EMI issues. The module includes a visit to a railway traction manufacturer and is run by the University of Birmingham with a substantial contribution from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Sheffield.
MEC6205: Systems Engineering for Dependability
Dependability is defined as the combination of an acceptable level of regularity, reliability, punctuality and safety. The module on dependability is designed to cover three broad areas: systems engineering and management of the engineering process, management of engineering and project risk, and reliability engineering. Lectures cover both hard and soft systems approaches, systems engineering tools, case studies and an in depth review of safety case theory and practice. Human factors, organisational systems and the management of risks in organisations are also addressed in the lectures. The module includes a visit to a systems house specialising railway maintenance and track inspection. The module is run by the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Sheffield with some 80% of input from the railway ndustry.
MEC6208: Railway Technology Strategy & Economics
The module has two primary objectives, namely, to introduce the students to the fundamental principles of economics and to develop their understanding of technology strategy issues. Economics is covered at a basic level and includes the issues of supply and demand, macro- and micro-economics and marginal costing as well as some elements of balance sheet analysis and project financing. More than 50% of the module is devoted to the railway paradigm, the strategic cycle and the understanding of supply chains and logistics. KPIs and benchmarking are also covered in this part of the module. Both economics and technology strategy are taught by means of lectures and case studies. The module is taught by members of staff of the University of Sheffield and a member of the Railway Technology Strategy Centre at Imperial College.
MEC6207: Signalling Systems & Train Control
The module starts with a description of the basic principles underlying railway control systems and signalling, including issues such as braking distance, block operation, route setting, failsafe principles and the mathematical theories of safe software design etc. It then covers the European Train Control System (ERTMS) and practical implementations of signalling principles, as well as signalling maintenance and EMC issues. The module is managed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Sheffield but features many lecturers from the railway signalling industry and a researcher from the University of New Orleans.
MEC6206: Infrastructure & Track Systems
The infrastructure module is designed to teach students about all aspects of the railway infrastructure, from structures and tunnels through to conventional track and slab track. Track forms and metallurgical issues of the wheel rail interface are included as well as power supply infrastructure and station and tunnel systems. The lecturers on the module also address issues such as environmental impact assessment, structure gauging and track maintenance. The module is currently managed by the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Sheffield. Most of the contributors are from industry.
MEC6209: Ergonomic Aspects of Railway Systems
This is a very practically oriented module whose content ranges from anthropometrics to information display and information management for both customers of railways and for staff. Classical ergonomics (design of work places and vehicle interiors) are covered as well as more philosophical issues. Mobility impairment and disability feature prominently, particularly in the context of public transport accessibility. The module involves practical exercises including working with a "third-age suit" and is taught by a team from the International Centre for Ergonomics at the University of Loughborough.
EUROTOUR: European Study Tour
The European study tour is included in the programme to allow the students to experience at first hand some of the most advanced railway systems and elements available in Europe before setting out on their dissertation project. It is an opportunity for benchmarking one's earlier experience. It both stimulates thought and prevents the participants from re-inventing the wheel. Destinations have included France, Belgium, Holland, Germany Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
MEC6210: MSc Dissertation Project
The main focus of the dissertation project is on systems integration. Most postgraduates undertake the dissertation while working for a sponsor. Project titles are agreed between the student, the University and the sponsor, whether or not the student is a permanent employee. A project workshop held before the main project activity allows the student to learn more about finding a topic, coming up with a hypothesis and about carrying out the necessary research.
Contacts for further information on this programme:
Ms Joy Grey, Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4342 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Felix Schmid, Programme Director, Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5138 or e-mail f.Schmid@bham.ac.uk