Last Updated S012019


Unit Code MRI501
Unit Duration 12 Weeks

Graduate Diploma of Engineering (Civil: Railway Infrastructure)

Duration: 1 year


Master of Engineering (Civil: Railway Infrastructure)

Duration: 2 years   

Year Level One
Unit Creator / Reviewer Brian Marsden
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None
Credit Points


Grad Dip total course credit points = 24

(3 credits x 8 (units))


Masters total course credit points = 48

(3 credits x 12 (units) + 12 credits (Thesis))

Mode of Delivery Online or on-campus. 
Unit Workload

10 hours per week:

Lecture - 1 hour

Tutorial Lecture - 1 hours

Assessments / Practical / Lab - 1 hour (where applicable)

Personal Study recommended - 7 hours (guided and unguided)

Unit Description and General Aims

At the beginning of the career of railway engineers, staff often learn about the operation and management of their rail organisations by experience. Within their company they may work as consultants or contractors, but to be successful they all require a broad knowledge of the railway environment, including the fact that it is an area subject to many different hazards.

In this Unit railways are examined from the perspective of an infrastructure manager. It begins with the history of rail, then explores and defines the different types of railways around the world, discussing some of the main features of railway infrastructure, track layouts, and their uses.

A broad description of the different types of rollingstock and traction is likewise incorporated in this study, including some high level technical aspects of rollingstock and maintenance of rail-related equipment and facilities. The topics covered consist of: train control and operation; detection of trains; timetabling; train control systems; driving of trains; driver health standards; and, driver training. Rail operations economics, management, and finances are also briefly explored.

The general aim is for this Unit to provide an introduction of the main assets and resources used to operate and maintain a railway. The “Introduction to Railways Management” Unit in the next term will provide students with management and operational perspectives, such as the management of safety, resources, people, activities, and business processes for a typical railway. This first Unit is therefore a prerequisite for the second Unit, both of which are located early in the Master’s degree program to give students a broad view of the railway business, ready for the more in-depth Units which follow.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Evaluate the history of railways including the different types of railways around the world.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  2. Assess and describe the uses of the different types of railway assets and infrastructure.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  3. Compare how different railways are controlled and operated.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Evaluate the basic processes of train detection, communication, and signalling.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  5. Critique the main types of rollingstock, their uses, and forms of rollingstock maintenance.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  6. Develop, assemble and synthesise appropriate engineering and/or management elements within a major case study of railway operations.
    • Bloom’s Level 6

Student assessment

Assessment Type


When assessed



(% of total Unit marks)

Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Multi-choice test

Word length: n/a

Topic: All material covered in the syllabus to date. Assessing the main types of railways and what are their uses.


Topic 3


1, 2

Assessment 2

Type: Mid-semester test (Proctored)

Example Questions: “How are railways operated and controlled? What is the difference between Dark Territory and Signalled Territory? Describe the operational and infrastructure differences between an urban passenger railway and a heavy-haul mineral railway. How would different climates e.g. ice and snow, and desert, affect the operation of a freight railway?”


Topic 6


1, 2, 3, 4

Assessment 3

Type: Group Rail Related Case Study

Word length: 1000

Develop, assemble and synthesise appropriate engineering and management elements within a major case study of railway operations.


Topic 9



Assessment 4

Type: Rail Related Report (Final Project)

Word length: 2000

Example Topic: You have been appointed as Chief Engineer for development of a very high speed (400 km/h) intercity passenger railway in your own country. Describe the control and operation of the railway, and the organisation, infrastructure and assets required for maintenance of all railway assets.

Week 12


1 – 6




1 - 6

Prescribed and Recommended readings

Required textbook/s:

  • V. A. Profillidis, Railway Management and Engineering, 4th Edition. Routledge, 2014 - ISBN: 978-1409464631


Recommended textbook/s:


Reference Materials: 

Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1

History of Railways

  1. Historical context
  2. Rail markets
  3. Transport in economic development

Topic 2

Different Types of Railways

  1. Railway costs and alternatives
  2. Environmental and land use benefits
  3. Safety, quality and environment
  4. Basic organisation structures

Topic 3

Rollingstock and Traction

  1. Locomotives
  2. Passenger rollingstock
  3. Freight wagons
  4. Main components of rollingstock
  5. Maintenance of rollingstock

Topic 4


  1. What are timetables used for
  2. Factors in their compilation
  3. Master train plans
  4. Variability and working without timetables

Topic 5

Detection of Trains/Signalling and Safeworking

  1. Train detection and separation
  2. Safe working systems and principles - SPADS
  3. Key parameters – sighting distance, braking distance, overlaps, train separation, overlap

Topic 6

Train Control and Operation

  1. Train planning
  2. Timetables and run when ready
  3. Different types of control systems
  4. Control centre operations

Topic 7

Driving of Trains and Driver Training

  1. Communications systems
  2. Information to driver
  3. Driver controls and fail-safe provisions
  4. Human factors impacting operational safety

Topic 8

Driver Health

  1. Importance of health
  2. Alcohol and drugs,
  3. Driver fatigue and work schedules
  4. Incident investigation and human factors

Topic 9

Infrastructure Fundamentals

  1. Main elements of railway infrastructure
  2. Track
  3. Signalling
  4. Communications
  5. Electrification
  6. Structures

Topic 10

Economics of Rail Operations

  1. Business cases
  2. Early private investment
  3. Government support
  4. Privatisation
  5. Investment and public/private financing

Topic 11

Asset Management

  1. Integrated and holistic management
  2. Infrastructure elements
  3. Design considerations
  4. Constructability
  5. Maintainability
  6. Asset management plans (AMP)

Topic 12

Project and Unit Review

In the final week students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of student work, to clarify any outstanding issues, and to work on finalising the major assessment report.

Engineers Australia

The Australian Engineering Stage 1 Competency Standards for the Professional Engineer, approved as of 2013. This table is referenced in the mapping of graduate attributes to learning outcomes and via the learning outcomes to student assessment.

Stage 1 Competencies and Elements Competency
1. Knowledge and Skill Base
1.1 Comprehensive, theory based understanding of the underpinning natural and physical sciences and the engineering fundamentals applicable to the engineering discipline.
1.2 Conceptual understanding of the mathematics, numerical analysis, statistics, and computer and information sciences which underpin the engineering discipline.
1.3 In-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge within the engineering discipline.
1.4 Discernment of knowledge development and research directions within the engineering discipline.
1.5 Knowledge of engineering design practice and contextual factors impacting the engineering discipline.
1.6 Understanding of the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of sustainable engineering practice in the specific discipline.
2. Engineering Application Ability
2.1 Application of established engineering methods to complex engineering problem solving.
2.2 Fluent application of engineering techniques, tools and resources.
2.3 Application of systematic engineering synthesis and design processes.
2.4 Application of systematic approaches to the conduct and management of engineering projects.
3. Professional and Personal Attributes
3.1 Ethical conduct and professional accountability.
3.2 Effective oral and written communication in professional and lay domains.
3.3 Creative, innovative and pro-active demeanor.
3.4 Professional use and management of information.
3.5 Orderly management of self and professional conduct.
3.6 Effective team membership and team leadership.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software: N/A

  • Version: N/A

  •  Instructions: N/A

  •  Additional resources or files: N/A


  • Hardware: N/A