Oslo- based Wave­train Sys­tems aims to im­prove safety at rail­way level cross­ings across the globe and looks to more busi­ness down un­der.

Oslo-based Wave­train Sys­tems aims to im­prove safety at rail­way level cross­ings across the globe.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - CHEYENNE HOL­LIS

After find­ing suc­cess in Europe, the com­pany de­cided to spread its wings in 2015 pulling into Aus­tralia.

Level cross­ings rep­re­sent the sin­gle big­gest risk fac­tor for global rail­way au­thor­i­ties. These ar­eas where roads and rail­way tracks in­ter­sect are the lo­ca­tion for a quar­ter of all train ac­ci­dents, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Rail­way Agency. Wave­train Sys­tems es­ti­mates there are 1,250 ac­ci­dents and ap­prox­i­mately 330 ca­su­al­ties in Europe each year con­nected to level cross­ings.

Recog­nis­ing the need to re­duce dan­ger in this area, Wave­train Sys­tems out­sourced a mar­ket anal­y­sis to con­firm if there was an ap­petite for an in­no­va­tive and cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion to in­crease safety at rail­way level cross­ings on the global level. Mr Mark Fos­ter, who as­sisted with the sur­vey and now works as the Asia Pa­cific Coun­try Man­ager at Wave­train Sys­tems, notes the an­swer was a re­sound­ing yes.

A group of sci­en­tists at the Nor­we­gian Seis­mic Ar­ray ( NORSAR) orig­i­nally de­vel­oped the core tech­nol­ogy that would be­come the key com­po­nent of Wave­train Sys­tems func­tion­al­ity. The in­no­va­tion makes it pos­si­ble to de­tect trains di­rectly at level cross­ings by us­ing acous­tics. All of these com­po­nents are nor­mally lo­cated within 15 me­tres of the site which is dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional set­ups where the sys­tem is much fur­ther away from the cross­ing.

These acous­tic sen­sors are mounted on the rails and lis­ten for dis­tinct sound waves gen­er­ated by ap­proach­ing trains. The dig­i­tal data is an­a­lysed by a nearby con­trol unit, which ac­ti­vates the cus­tomer’s pre­ferred warn­ing de­vices, such as gates and flash­ing lights, at the ap­pro­pri­ate time. The com­pany’s Level Cross­ing Warn­ing Sys­tem is an end-toend SIL 2 cer­ti­fied prod­uct that uses SIL 4 cer­ti­fied acous­tic sen­sors.

De­spite its high-tech na­ture, the in­spi­ra­tion of Wave­train Sys­tems is ac­tu­ally quite sim­ple. In an in­ter­view with Science X, NORSAR Chair­man of the Board, An­ders Dahle, ex­plained, “We liken Wave­train Sys­tems to the Na­tive Amer­i­can prac­tice of putting one’s ear to the ground. Our sys­tem is lit­er­ally on the track, lis­ten­ing for trains.”

Mr Fos­ter says the Wave­train Sys­tems so­lu­tion can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce in­stal­la­tion and life cy­cle costs while re­tain­ing the re­quired qual­ity and se­cu­rity at the cross­ing. This as­pect is ap­peal­ing to rail­way au­thor­i­ties world­wide but it is not the only thing the tech­nol­ogy can help with.

“Our tech­nol­ogy not only de­tects trains acous­ti­cally, but we can ‘hear’ anom­alies in the rails them­selves. So we can warn of pend­ing rail break­ages or other is­sues,” he points out.

South­ern Ex­press Wave­train Sys­tems tabbed Mr Fos­ter to lead its Aus­tralian en­tity in 2015 based on the need of the mar­ket there. Co­op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre ( CRC) for Rail In­no­va­tion found there were more than 725 mil­lion an­nual cus­tomer jour­neys and 720 mil­lion tonnes of freight moved across Aus­tralia via rail. De­spite rail’s high us­age in the coun­try, there is room for safety im­prove­ments across the board.

“There are circa 23,000 pas­sive level cross­ings in Aus­tralia alone that could ben­e­fit from a sys­tem to de­tect trains and ac­ti­vate warn­ing lights and boom gates,” Mr Fos­ter states. “These can all be up­graded to ac­tive cross­ings and this is why Wave­train Sys­tems felt the Aus­tralian mar­ket would wel­come our tech­nol­ogy.”

One key de­ci­sion for Wave­train Sys­tems was the es­tab­lish­ment of an

Aus­tralian arm as op­posed to an­other type of ar­range­ment. While be­ing a Nor­we­gian-based com­pany doesn’t help or hurt Wave­train Sys­tems in Fos­ter’s view, be­ing a reg­is­tered en­tity al­lows the firm to pro­vide clients with greater peace of mind.

“I have had to ex­plain in our in­stance that we are work­ing with the Bri­tish rail busi­ness, from our Oslo head­quar­ters, on a day to day ba­sis. This gives my lo­cal base com­fort,” Mr Fos­ter says. “It does help if a com­pany has a lo­cal reg­is­tered en­tity in the re­gion. Sup­plier ac­cred­i­ta­tion does take lo­cal con­tent rules se­ri­ously.”

Aus­tralia also serves as an ideal launch­ing pad for Wave­train Sys­tems’ ex­pan­sion ef­forts in Asia. The com­pany is al­ready in talks with sev­eral coun­tries and re­mains op­ti­mistic that it will be able to have a re­gional pres­ence in the near fu­ture.

“We are ac­tively en­gaged with the rail au­thor­i­ties in China, Tai­wan, Cam­bo­dia, Thai­land, Viet­nam and Ja­pan. We are work­ing on so­lu­tions for them sur­round­ing level cross­ing pro­tec­tion and as­set mon­i­tor­ing also,” Mr Fos­ter de­tails.

In South­east Asia, rail safety isn’t nec­es­sar­ily seen as a pri­or­ity. Even as work be­gins on high-speed rail links be­tween the re­gion and China, level cross­ings on cur­rent lines in Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia and Viet­nam are quite ba­sic with some re­ly­ing on man­ual gates op­er­ated by on­duty guards. Mr Fos­ter ac­knowl­edges chang­ing cur­rent in­fra­struc­ture may not be fea­si­ble.

“It is dif­fi­cult to get the au­thor­i­ties in South­east Asia to act on level cross­ing safety gen­er­ally. Our pro­gres­sion in that re­gion will ul­ti­mately be as­set mon­i­tor­ing for fu­ture rail projects,” Mr Fos­ter ex­plains.

Look­ing to­wards the com­ing years, Wave­train Sys­tems has sev­eral goals it hopes to ac­com­plish in ad­di­tion to re­gional ex­pan­sion that will help it im­prove busi­ness on mul­ti­ple lev­els.

“In the short term, we want to achieve prod­uct type ap­provals which are a re­quire­ment for safety crit­i­cal sys­tems in Aus­tralia, New Zealand, United King­dom and France. Then our sys­tem can be con­sid­ered in rail project ten­ders with­out fur­ther sys­tem eval­u­a­tion,” Mr Fos­ter notes. “In the long term, we want to find suc­cess in South­east Asia, USA and Europe. Man­u­fac­ture our sys­tems un­der li­cense in the re­gions we are ac­tive and adding cost ben­e­fit to our end users.” From Nor­way to Aus­tralia

The path from Nor­way to Aus­tralia isn’t one trav­elled by many Nor­we­gian busi­nesses. For what­ever rea­son, do­mes­tic firms do not tar­get the land down un­der de­spite a strong econ­omy and high spend­ing power. There are quite a few chal­lenges for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies think­ing about the ex­pan­sion and the sheer size of the coun­try can be over­whelm­ing.

“Aus­tralia is a vast land and ser­vic­ing all the states is ex­pen­sive. There can be a lot of travel. This must be a con­sid­er­a­tion in start-up es­ti­ma­tions and bud­gets,” Mr Fos­ter de­scribes. “You also need to se­cure a re­la­tion­ship with a freight car­rier that gives you all the op­tions, such as good freight rates for air and sea, con­sol­i­dated hub op­tions out of Europe, lo­cal cus­toms broking and lo­cal bond stor­age op­tions.”

And, of course, you have the usual con­sid­er­a­tions such as time zones, in­sur­ance, hu­man re­sources and of­fice space. Tal­ent is an­other as­pect that must be planned for. Mr Fos­ter had ex­pe­ri­ence with Wave­train Sys­tems and pre­vi­ously worked with a Euro­pean­based rail busi­ness al­low­ing for a smooth tran­si­tion. Most busi­nesses won’t be as for­tu­nate.

That be­ing said, there are a num­ber of things Nor­we­gian busi­nesses in Aus­tralia can do for sup­port. The lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity may be small, but it can still be quite pow­er­ful. There is no bet­ter place to start than the Nor­we­gian Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“Make con­tact with your lo­cal Nor­we­gian Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce. My early con­tact and on­go­ing in­volve­ment led to nu­mer­ous net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Mr Fos­ter pro­claims. “The re­la­tion­ship also led to var­i­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to have the Nor­we­gian Am­bas­sador per­form joint vis­its to po­ten­tial clients. The sup­port of the Em­bassy was in­valu­able and very well re­ceived in our meet­ings.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Mr Fos­ter urges those com­pa­nies ei­ther in Aus­tralia or con­sid­er­ing an ex­pan­sion to en­gage with other Nor­we­gian cor­po­rates al­ready there. These con­ver­sa­tions can of­ten re­veal use­ful strate­gies and other con­tacts to fur­ther your growth in the coun­try.

As an Aus­tralian, work­ing with Wave­train Sys­tems has pro­vided Mr Fos­ter with a first-hand look of the Nor­we­gian cul­ture and work en­vi­ron­ment and it has made an im­pres­sion on him.

“I re­ally envy the Nor­we­gian cul­ture in that when my col­leagues are on leave or have left work for the day, they gen­er­ally do shut-off, re­lax and wind-down. I can at­test to the fact that this does cre­ate a health­ier work en­vi­ron­ment over­all, with well-rested and re-in­vig­o­rated staff. This is some­thing we Aussies could learn from,” Mr Fos­ter con­cludes.

PHOTO: WAVE­TRAIN

PHOTO: WAVE­TRAIN

Above left: Wave­train sen­sors be­ing in­stalled along railroad tracks. Above: The Wave­train Sys­tems Level Cross­ing Con­troller in ac­tion.

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