Last Updated S012019


Unit Code MRI601
Unit Duration 12 Weeks

Master of Engineering (Civil: Railway Infrastructure)

Duration: 2 years  

Year Level Two
Unit Creator / Reviewer John Powell
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None
Credit Points



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

Simply knowing the components from which a railway track is assembled will not enable the Rail Civil Engineer to understand and influence the complex interactions between each of those components. Understanding the complex interactions is critical to ensure designs and changes to designs are safe under all operating conditions.

The design of railway tracks requires engineers to build on knowledge from earlier Units of this Master’s program by considering how each element of a railway system influences another, and what limitations exist in carrying forces applied by operational or by environmental factors.

This Unit also provides some further foundation knowledge to enable students to understand the forces of interaction between the whole track and passing trains.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Recommend and prepare specifications for track formation materials.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  2. Validate, test and solve problems related to track formation issues.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  3. Judge relevant information to recommend appropriate maintenance and rectification strategies for the track formation.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Evaluate standards relating to different traffic tasks.
    • Bloom’s Level 5
  5. Produce and plan documentation which analyses the overall stability of a track structure.
    • Bloom’s Level 6

Student assessment

Assessment Type

(e.g. Assignment - 2000 word essay (specify topic)

Examination (specify length and format))

When assessed

(eg Week 5)

Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Design brief

Word length: 1500

Topic: Prepare a project brief suitable for issuing to consultants for a track structure design and formation as required for a major track upgrade to accommodate higher speeds and axle loads.

Week 4 20% 1, 3

Assessment 2

Type: Design analysis

Word length: 1500

Topic: Plan and document designs relating to case studies on track stability and ballasts.

Week 7 25% 2, 5

Assessment 3

Type: Group design project (Final Project)

Word length: 2000

Topic: Prepare a comprehensive group engineering report, including self-reflection on individual project contributions, concerning a case study related to a major upgrade of a railway track, with the primary focus being on the design, testing, sourcing and installation of track formation. The report will require careful referencing and be suitable in its format, quality of analysis, validity of design and conclusions for decision-making by senior engineers.

Week 12 50% 1 – 5


Continuous 5% 1 - 5

Prescribed and Recommended readings

Required Textbook(s)

Reference Materials

A number of books, peer-reviewed journals and websites as advised below:

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

Track Foundation and Formation

  1. Introduction to track geotechnology
  2. Track structure
  3. Track loading fundamentals
  4. Soil properties and classification

Topic 2 and 3

Formation Renewal and Assessment

  1. Track and formation renewal practices
  2. Track investigation and design
  3. Capping materials
  4. Drainage
  5. Geosynthetics
  6. Track reconstruction solutions
  7. Chemical stabilisation
  8. Construction strategies
  9. Rock foundation
  10. Dynamic Cone Penetrometer (DCP): guide to use and interpretation 

Topic 4

Ballasted Track Design Principles and Processes, Part 1

  1. Ballasted track types
  2. Ballasted track design principles
  3. Ballast track design processes 

Topic 5

Track Stability

  1. Introduction to track buckling and rail pull-aparts
  2. Active forces promoting track instability
  3. Passive forces resisting active forces
  4. Track stability design processes 

Topic 6

Ballasted Track Design Principles and Processes, Part 2

  1. Speed and superelevation
  2. Lateral forces
  3. Rail stresses

Topic 7

Ballasted Track Design Principles and Processes, Part 3

  1. Track modulus and track deflection
  2. Ballast contact pressure
  3. Ballast depth
  4. Track substructure design 

Topic 8

Direct Fixation Track Types

  1. Direct fixation track types
  2. Direct fixation track design principles
  3. Direct fixation track design processes

Topic 9 and 10

Defect Monitoring and Assessment

  1. Determination of the root cause of track formation problems
  2. Defect types and failure modes
  3. Geotechnical investigations for track formations

Topic 11

Track Standards

  1. Introduction to track classification
  2. Track standards for different traffic tasks 

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 and to clarify any outstanding issues.  Instructors/facilitators may choose to cover a specialised topic if applicable to that cohort.

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