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Safety and Accident Investigation - Rail Transport (MSc/PgDip/PgCert)

Course Description

Course Description

Cranfield University are proud to offer the world’s first full MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation (Rail Transport) designed for rail accident investigators. The course is suitable for those with a technical or operational background in railway or safety engineering and management, accident investigators, and those employed by national investigation agencies, operators, regulators, and manufacturers.


The course aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to conduct a rail accident investigation in accordance with the standards and recommended practices as required under the appropriate national and European legislation, including:

• Collection and preservation of evidence
• Health and safety of themselves and others on the accident site
• Scientific analysis of causes of accidents
• Preparation of defensible and practicable recommendations
• Dissemination of findings and safety promotion.

The course is delivered on a modular basis and consists of a combination of conventional learning tools (lectures, case studies, table-top exercises, visits) as well as hands-on experience through field exercises and simulations.

English Language Requirements

If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5
TOEFL - 92
Pearson PTE Academic - 65
Cambridge English Scale - 180
Cambridge English: Advanced - C
Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

Course overview

The MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation (Rail Transport) is completed over three years and consists of two compulsory modules, four optional modules and an individual research project. The course is delivered on a modular basis and consists of a combination of conventional learning tools (lectures, case studies, table-top exercises, visits) as well as hands-on experience through field exercises and simulations.

The programme commences with attendance on the three-week module in Fundamentals of Investigation followed by a three-week module in Applied Rail Accident Investigation. The two compulsory modules have input from a significant number of external presenters who represent safety and accident investigation, including the UK Air, Marine and Rail Accident Investigation Branches together with safety professionals from manufacturers, operators, military and government agencies from across the world.

In addition to management, communication, team work and research skills, each student will attain at least the following learning outcomes from this degree course:
- Demonstrate a fundamental understanding of, and the application thereof to current problems, the process of transport accident investigation including preparation, emergency response, evidence collection, analysis, report writing and recommendation writing

- Understand the statutory obligations of an accident investigator and the competing interests of agencies including the police, coroner, regulator, operator and manufacturer and incorporate these in investigation processes.

- Identify the evidence sources that may be available to an investigation and personally demonstrate how to collect, preserve and interpret them.

- Examine major accident investigation case studies and critically evaluate their relevance to investigation techniques and aviation safety.

- Critically analyse evidence collected during an investigation, draw conclusions and make recommendations that do not lay blame, are replicable, logical and of sufficient scientific rigour.

- Plan, organise and conduct an accident investigation, on site with due regard to personal safety, evidence preservation, ethics and rigour.


The taught programme for the Safety and Accident Investigation masters in Rail Transport commences with completion of the two core modules.

- Fundamentals of Investigation
- Applied Rail Accident Investigation

- Aerial Photography and Digital Photogrammetry
- Investigation and Evidence Collection
- Fire and Explosion Investigations
- Failure of Materials and Components
- Research Methods and Statistics
- Mass Fatality Incidents
- Failure of Materials and Structures
- Structural Integrity
- Legal Skills for Accident Investigators
- Investigating Human Performance
- Courtroom Skills
- Advanced Interview Techniques for Accident Investigators
- Crisis Management and Business Continuity
- Traction and Rolling Stock
- Introduction to Railway Signalling Technologies

Individual Project

During year three, students undertake a supervised research project on a subject of their choice within the rail accident investigation field. Students will be given a briefing and must demonstrate competency in hypothesis formation, literature review, methodology, analysis, conclusion forming and presentation. Students will also be asked to give a formal oral presentation on their research findings.


Taught Modules (50%); Individual Research Project (50%). The taught component is assessed by a combination of examinations and assignments.

Career opportunities

The MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation (Rail Transport) allows you to receive an internationally recognised qualification in the field of rail accident investigation. The majority of students join this course with the intention of receiving a qualification that will allow them to further their career development in accident investigation or other safety related areas of the rail transport industry.

For further information

On this course, please visit our course webpage - http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/courses/masters/safety-and-accident-investigation-rail-transport.html

Visit the Safety and Accident Investigation - Rail Transport (MSc/PgDip/PgCert) page on the Cranfield University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

The course is primarily aimed at those involved in rail accident investigation and other safety related industries. Applicants should have a good UK honours degree (or equivalent) in any discipline, or a recognised lower qualification plus relevant work experience in rail/safety related areas.

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