Benefits of adopting systems engineering approaches in rail projects

Elliott, Bruce Jeffrey (2014). Benefits of adopting systems engineering approaches in rail projects. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

PDF - Redacted Version

Download (3MB)


Systems Engineering (SE) is being increasingly used in rail projects. However, it is not entirely clear what exactly the return on investing in SE is or how to maximise this return. This thesis describes research into the relationship between the adoption of SE in rail projects and project outcomes.

Using project cost and duration and system performance to measure the benefits of adopting SE is found to be problematic. Theoretical reasons and practical experience lead the writer to believe that many of the benefits of adopting SE on projects are enjoyed as a consequence of reducing change latency - the unnecessary delay in deciding to make a change. A tentative theory of how SE can reduce change latency is proposed and tested against data collected from nine rail projects. The data corroborate several causal mechanisms in the theory but also suggest that change latency depends upon other factors.

For practitioners considering whether to apply SE on a project, the research findings provide encouragement but also a warning that the full benefits of applying SE will only be enjoyed if other pre-requisites for sound decision making are in place. The findings also provide guidance on how to adapt SE practices when applying them to rail projects, in order to maximise the benefits.

The writer argues that change latency is a valuable metric for both practitioners and researchers and that formulating and refining explicit theories about the manner in which SE delivers benefits can assist researchers to build upon each other’s work.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
School or Department: School of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year