Human Factors Research Group

Rail Transport

The HFRG has international reputation for excellence in all areas of rail human factors research.

Major project areas include:

Rail transport
  • rail maintenance and inspection
  • railway control and traffic management
  • driver competencies and behaviours
  • and passenger and public behaviour

Outcomes of this research include research methods and tools that are now used by the rail industry.

The group has a strong track record of research in this area since 1998, securing research funding from the rail industry (e.g.  Network Rail and other industry suppliers), RSSB , EPSRC, EU, Transport Systems Catapult, Innovate UK, TSB, DfT and the European Railway Agency (ERA).  Since 2002, the team have supervised more than 15 rail human factors PhDs on rail topics.  The group has a strong publication record in this research field, more than 150 rail-related articles and chapters in peer reviewed journals, books and conference publications.

The HFRG has also been a major contributor, with Network Rail, RSSB and ERA, to the organisation of the only series of international rail human factors conferences in the world (e.g. in 2003 (York), 2006 (London), 2009 (Lille) and 2013, 2015, 2017 (London), with around 200 attendees from more than 20 countries; these have led to publication of three rail human factors books (Wilson et al, 2005, 2007, 2012). 

Key contacts



We have conducted a wide variety of projects which can be summarised in four areas:

Human factors and rail engineering

  • Better processes for access for access for rail engineering
  • Safety culture in track maintenance
  • Resilience in the planning of rail engineering work
  • Intelligent infrastructure and predictive maintenance

Railway signalling and control

  • Signaller workload
  • Expertise in railway controllers
  • Situation awareness
  • Control room design
  • Disruption management
  • Automation

Driving/train control

  • Driver advisory systems
  • Ecodriving
  • Driving with ERTMS/ETCS
  • Route knowledge
  • Simulator studies

Public safety and passenger experience

  • Passenger information and disruption
  • Public safety on the railways, including rail suicide and trespass

Key publications

  • Wilson, J.R., Ryan, B., Schock, A,, Ferreira, P., Smith, S., Pitsopoulos, J., 2009. Understanding risk in rail engineering work systems. Ergonomics, 52, 774-790.
  • Ryan, B., Sharples, S., Wilson, J.R., Morrisroe, G. Clarke, T., 2009. Developing a rail ergonomics questionnaire (REQUEST). Applied Ergonomics, 40, 216– 229.
  • Pickup, L, Wilson, J.R.,Lowe, E, 2010, The operational demand evaluation checklist (ODEC) of workload for railway signalling. Applied Ergonomics, 41, 393-402.
  • DADASHI, N., WILSON, J. R., GOLIGHTLY, D. AND SHARPLES, S., 2014. A Framework To Support Human Factors Of Automation In Railway Intelligent Infrastructure: Ergonomics. 57(3), 387-402.
  • Naghiyev, A., Sharples, S., Carey, M., Coplestone, A. Ryan, B.,, 2014.  Alerts and alarms in conventional and ERTMS Train Driving: An exploratory eye-tracking field study, HFES Conference, Chicago, October 2014.
  • STANTON, N.A., MCILROY, R.C., HARVEY, C., BLAINEY, S., HICKFORD, A., PRESTON, J. and RYAN, B., (2013). Following the CWA train of thought: Exploring the barriers and constraints of modal shift to rail transport. Ergonomics. 56, 541-555

PhD Students

  • Aaisha Farooqi (2016) Methods for the investigation of work and human errors in rail engineering contexts. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
  • Arzoo (Buksh) Naghiyev (2016) Human Factors of Train Driving With Incab Control and Automation Technology (with a focus on the European Rail Traffic Management System). PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Shelley Stiles (2016) Achieving behavioural change: development of a framework for second and third tier suppliers in the infrastructure engineering industry. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Rebecca Charles (2014) Using cognitive artefacts to aid decision-making in railway signalling operations. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Nuno Cebola (2013) Fatigue risk management. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Pedro Ferreira (2012) Resilence in rail engineering. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Alex Schock (2009) Planning in maintenance. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Faddzil Shah (2009) Safety culture in Malaysian railways system. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Nora Balfe (2009) Human-centred automation in the control of the rail network. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Tom Yates (2009) Rail cab simulation. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Yasamin Dadashi (2009) Interfaces for handheld devices in rail maintenance. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Laura Pickup (2007) Understanding and assessment of mental workload in railway signalling. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Trudi Farrington Darby (2007) Expertise and work of UK Rail Controllers: A field study. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.
  • Stuart Smith (2006) Assessment of validation in human factors. PhD Thesis, Nottingham.

Human Factors Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham

Telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4040