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  1. Licensing
  2. Membership & Registration
  3. Qualifications & Careers
  4. Publications & Resources
  5. Get Involved
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Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (Module A) reading list

This page contains the reading list for the Certificate in Railway Control Engineering fundamentals

Students are encouraged to read and gain experience wider than the essential reading list as a broad knowledge of railway control and communications systems engineering is needed to pass this module.


The questions will cover all learning objectives within the syllabus for the Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (module A):

  • Role of railway signalling and communications systems
  • Principles and philosophy of railway control and communications
  • Safety engineering and risk identification, analysis and management
  • Concepts of railway signalling and control, including interlocking, train detection and routing, traffic management and communications
  • The functionality and limitations of various types of train signalling and control equipment
  • Concepts of system lifecycle including design, installation, testing and commissioning
  • Importance of maintenance, inspection and testing, concepts of dependability and operability
  • Concepts of the design of fail-safe hardware and high-integrity software
  • Standards, procedures, legislation and regulations which apply to operating and changing a railway
  • Interfaces and interactions between railway control and communications and related railway systems and stakeholders
  • Railway control and communications in functions other than the control of train movement including level crossings and stations

Essential reading list

All items on the essential reading list are available free of charge and most of these are short articles.  Studying and understanding all of the items in the essential list will enable a candidate to pass the Certificate.

  1. Module A Syllabus: scope of exam arranged under 11 learning objectives
  2. Certificate (Module A) Study Guide v3 March 2022: advice to candidates on preparing for the exam Updated March 2022
  3. Module A Example Questions: some questions that demonstrate the style, format and typical content of the various question types used in the Certificate (Module A)  Updated February 2022!
  4. Glossary of Train Control Terminology: common terms, acronyms and alternative terminology for railway control functions, systems and equipment
  5. Introduction to Railway Signalling: a very basic introduction to the subject of railway signalling.  Certificate candidates with little prior knowledge should start here
  6. Fundamental requirements for a train control system (back to basics): a short article on the essential requirements for any train control system
  7. Train detection (back to basics): an overview of the many ways in which train positions can be determined
  8. Interlockings part 1 and Interlockings part 2 (back to basics): two articles covering the technologies and functionality of the fundamental core of a signalling system
  9. How do we reduce the number of accidents involving human factors? an exploration of available solutions that reduce the risk of, and mitigate the impacts of, human error in railway control systems
  10. Achieving high levels of signalling system availability: a look at the challenge of reducing service-affecting failures, improving recovery times and providing means of degraded-mode operation
  11. Dependability of railway control & communication systems: the fundamentals of reliability, availability, maintainability, safety and security in railway control engineering
  12. Principles of railway safety engineering (back to basics): explains the identification and analysis of hazards and risks
  13. Train protection (back to basics): the story of train protection from train stops to ATP systems, ETCS, CBTC and PTC
  14. Operator interfaces (back to basics): covers the interface between the human operator and the signalling system from lever frames to computer workstations
  15. Telecoms part 1 and Telecoms part 2 (back to basics): two articles covering the whole breadth of telecoms networks and customer-facing communications respectively
  16. Safe train separation: a basic overview of the methods of maintaining a safe distance between trains and conveying movement authorities to trains
  17. Safety engineering for railway control & communication systems: principles of integrity and safety management as applied to railway control systems
  18. Metro railways - automation and summary of differences from typical main line railways: a summary of ways in which issues affecting railway control engineering typically differ between metros and main line railways. Also an outline of the various degrees of metro automation
  19. Governance in railway control engineering:, standards, procedures, legislation and regulations which apply to operating and changing a railway
  20. Level crossings (back to basics): fundamental principles and typical applications of level crossings
  21. Railway control & communications systems management: a summary of some aspects of systems management, life cycle and interfaces
  22. Interfaces and interactions between railway control & communications and related systems: an outline of the interfaces with operations and other engineering systems
  23. Study guide for module 2 - signalling the layout: covers the elements of signalling layouts, including the relationships between the provision of signals and traffic operating patterns, rolling stock and layout constraints and headway requirements


Background reading

The following are recommended for Certificate in Railway Control Engineering Fundamentals (module A) candidates who want a wider perspective, or alternative approaches to subjects covered in the essential reading list.
These books can be purchased at the IRSE store (discounts available for IRSE members)

  1. Introduction to Railway Signalling: describes modern signalling equipment, systems and practice. Does not cover transmission-based signalling in any great detail. Especially recommended for candidates with little previous knowledge of the subject
  2. Railway Telecommunications Textbook: a comprehensive guide including details of the background, infrastructure, equipment and constraining elements of railway telecommunications