Thank you for your interest in this course. Our three Safety and Accident Investigation courses – Rail Transport, Marine Transport and Air Transport, now form a sole Safety and Accident Investigation course, which is available both full and part time. For more information please contact

Developed in close collaboration with the rail accident investigation community, this course offers a unique combination of research based learning and learning from real-world experiences, ensuring that students gain the skills and knowledge from the best of both academia and industry.


  • Start dateJanuary or May
  • DurationPart-time PgCert - one year
  • DeliveryTaught modules 100%
  • QualificationPgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

The course is primarily aimed at those involved, or about to become involved, in rail accident investigation and other safety related industries.

The course is suitable for those with a technical or operational background in rail or safety engineering and management, accident investigators, and those employed by national investigation agencies, operator, infrastructure providers, regulators, and manufacturers.

Why this course?

The course structure has been developed in close collaboration with the accident investigation community and with the endorsement of the Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre’s Industrial Advisory Board.

An important aspect of this course is the use of hands-on workshops and simulations to develop the practical skills required as an investigator. This is complemented by sessions and modules that enable you to conduct rigorous research and scientific analysis, along with technical writing, investigation and interviewing techniques.

Cranfield University is very well located for visiting part-time students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst balancing work/life commitments. This PgCert programme benefits from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

Informed by Industry

The Industry Advisory Board for this course is made up of representatives from several organisations who have an interest in safety and accident investigation. As this is a new course it is expected that the Board will meet annually to ensure the course content remains relevant and up-to-date. 

Course details

The course is delivered on a modular basis and consists of a combination of conventional learning tools and 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 from the Safety and Accident Investigation field. 

Course delivery

Taught modules 100%


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory modules and (where applicable) some elective modules affiliated with this programme which ran in the academic year 2018–2019. There is no guarantee that these modules will run for 2019 entry. All modules are subject to change depending on your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course

Fundamentals of Investigation

Module Leader
  • Professor Graham Braithwaite

    To provide accident investigators with the fundamental knowledge and skills to conduct a general transport accident investigation.



    • The purpose of investigation
    • Notification processes
    • Getting started
    • Group system of investigation
    • Health and safety at the accident site
    • Initial appraisal of land and sea based sites
    • Disaster response
    • Disaster management
    • Competing interests, criminal investigations
    • Recovery of wreckage
    • Wreckage photography


    • Collecting evidence
    • Site survey techniques
    • Systems, engineering and operations investigations
    • High profile investigations
    • Organisational accidents
    • Investigative interviewing
    • Interview techniques
    • Analysis of statements
    • Physical evidence
    • Crashworthiness
    • Structures
    • Material failures and composites
    • Look and record
    • Remote site survey
    • Investigation site simulation

    Human factors

    • The human factor
    • Physiology
    • Psychology
    • Ergonomics
    • Passenger behaviour
    • Investigation support
    • Test capabilities
    • The role of the media
    • Witnesses
    • Accident pathology
    • Recovery and identification of bodies
    • Court procedures for investigators
    • The Coroner’s court


    • Recorders
    • Data recorders (voice/flight data)
    • Analysis of recorders
    • Non-volatile memory
    • Fundamentals of analysis
    • Analytical approaches
    • Applying analysis tools
    • Traps in analysis


    • A major event
    • Management of large investigations
    • Liaising with victims / families
    • Relatives’ perspective
    • Report writing
    • Relations with the regulator
    • Managing recommendations
    • Multimodal investigations
    • Follow-up actions
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Describe the accident investigation process for a transport accident including elements of preparation, emergency response, evidence collection, analysis and presentation of findings.
  • Work safely under supervision at an accident site.
  • Conduct witness interviews and collect material evidence from a variety of relevant sources.
  • Conduct an analysis of evidence to develop a no-blame report of what occurred and recommendations for future prevention.
  • Work successfully alongside relevant agencies including the police, coroner, media and regulator.

Applied Rail Accident Investigation

Module Leader
  • Yani Asmayawati
    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation to develop specialist skills for the investigation of rail accidents.

    The module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation module to develop specialist skills for the investigation of rail accidents.

    Advanced investigative skills
    • Rail accident site management and dealing with other agencies
    • Rail accident site risk management
    • Advanced interviewing skills
    • Advanced investigative photography
    • Advanced analysis methods
    • Rail crashworthiness and passenger survivability
    • Investigating Safety Management System

    Investigating collisions, level crossing accidents, and Signals Passed at Danger

    • Overview of factors contributing to Signals Passed at Danger, collision/level crossing accidents and case studies
    • Basic principles of signalling
    • Relevant safety systems in train control
    • Relevant human factors aspects

    Investigating derailment accidents

    • Overview of factors contributing to derailment accidents and case studies
    • Collecting, inspecting and interpreting evidence (on site)
    • Dynamic modelling of wheel/rail interface response
    • Relevant human factors aspects

    Accident investigation simulation

    A five-day practical exercise in a simulated accident investigation scenario where delegates can apply the skills and knowledge acquired in the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation course and other workshops in the Applied Rail Accident Investigation series. The simulation takes the delegate through the entire investigation process from notification, site investigation, interviews, analysis, report writing and formulating recommendations.
    • Team and investigation management.
    • Securing the accident site.
    • Managing news media
    • Health and safety at the accident site.
    • Risk assessment of the accident site.
    • Physical examination of wreckage/track.
    • Documentation investigation (procedures, manuals, logs, etc).
    • Accident site photography.
    • Accident site management.
    • Witness interviewing.
    • Application of analysis techniques.
    • Developing recommendations.
    • Formal report writing.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

1. Identify potential hazards at a rail accident site and assess the risks and mitigation methods in order to work safely whilst conducting an investigation.
2. Identify and evaluate common failure types and their symptoms in terms of structures, rolling stock, fire, railway systems and human factors.
3. Describe and contrast the differences between the investigation of the different types of rail operations and technology.
4. Describe the role of the different parties in the accident investigation process and manage the relationships between these parties.
5. Successfully manage an accident investigation, both on-site and through to the publication and acceptance of recommendations.
6. Compose an accident report and develop feasible safety recommendations.
7. Identify, collect and analyse information/evidence from a variety of electronic, hard copy and witness sources to support investigations and research.
8. Appraise and critique the work of other practitioners and specialists.
9. Communicate effectively, in written form, research work and investigations produced.
10. Take responsibility for research and investigations produced, including, efficient time management, working to set deadlines and targets, demonstrating self-discipline, creative thinking and critical reflections of their own performance.
11. Collaborate and contribute effectively to group workshops, simulations and assignments, appreciating the contributions made by other team members, especially from different disciplines, national and cultural backgrounds.

Teaching team

Your career

The PgCert 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.

How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.