PT Len Railway Systems installed a new signalling system as part of upgrades, and as Kevin Smith reports from visits to its headquarters in Bandung and an installation near Semarang in central Java, the company hopes to play a major role in upcoming infrastructure projects.

RAISING her hand into the air and blowing a whistle, Mrs Murtí Marasin carefully observes the 12.30 locomotive-hauled commuter service as it leaves her station in Alastua, just outside of Semarang in central Java on December 8.

The scene is not atypical on Java's railway network apart from the status of Marasin. She is Indonesia's first female station master, and along with the new section of double track that runs through the station as part of the upgrades to the Jakarta - Surabaya corridor, is further evidence that Indonesia's railways are finally entering the 21st century.

Indeed on this hot December day engineers from PT Len Railway Systems (PTLRS) are carrying out final testing at Alastua on new signalling equipment installed in the station's new air-conditioned equipment room. The Alastua control room is one of more than 90 stations where new systems are now in place to support enhanced operations on 465.5km of new double track installed as part of the improvements to the 727km corridor, which will eventually increase capacity on the line by up to 300%.

PTLRS was awarded five contracts worth Rupiah 1.7 trillion ($US 142.1m) for the signalling upgrade in 2011 which falls under the Indonesian government's Masterplan for Acceleration of Economic Development. The five packages encompass the Cirebon - Brebes (63km), Pekalongan - Semarang (80km), Semarang - Sulur - Doplang - Bojonegoro (180km), and Bojonegoro - Surabaya (103km) sections of the line where operations will begin next month. The single-track line accommodates 96 trains per day but this will increase to more than 160 in the next two years as headways are reduced. Journey times will also improve, with passenger trains from Jakarta to Surabaya taking 8h 30min hours, down from 12 hours previously.

PTLRS's work on the signalling upgrades commenced in 2012 and was completed by the end of 2013. Specific installations included replacing mechanical interlockings, which have been in service for more than 20 years, with new electronic and centrally-operated and managed components.

Alastua-StationAt the heart of the system is the second version of PTLRS's interlocking system, SIL-02, which is based on a solid-state interlocking and an electronic interface between the interlocking and mechanical signalling equipment known as Len Mobis. This converts half-wave analogue data to digital data which is transmitted between interlockings via a transmission frequency for use by train control systems that utilise a fibre optic network. Fibre optic cable has replaced aerial copper cabling which PTLRS says is susceptible to lightning strikes and cable earthing, whereas the new interlocking is isolated and does not require conductor connections.

PTLRS has installed its SIL-02 solution in various small-scale projects across Indonesia since 2004, but the double-track project is its more extensive installation on what is Indonesia's most comprehensive railway upgrade project to date. Specifically SIL-02 now covers all movements at 33 signal locations in the Pekalongan - Semarang - Bojonegoro sections of the double-track line, five out of the six on the Cirebon - Brebes section, where a legacy vital processing interlocking has been modified to support expanded operations, and 13 of the 19 locations on the Bojonegoro - Surabaya section, where six intermediate blocks are also available.

These are employed to reduce headways when utilising the signalling system's bi-directional signals, which allow traffic to continue when maintenance work is taking place on one of the tracks. SIL-02 also includes centralised traffic control and supervision systems, automatic train protection as well as the Len LX level crossing supervisory system, train dispatch, telecoms, power supply and equipment housing products.

In addition to the relatively short project duration of 18 months, PTLRS says the major challenges of completing the undertaking was coordinating work with contractors carrying out track, bridge, culvert and subgrade installation all while the railway remained in operation.

And while the work is now complete, PTLRS is now acting as a maintenance contractor, providing spare parts and a team of on-call engineers to rectify any technical problems that might arise.

Mr Abraham Mose, president and director of PT Len Industri, parent company of PTLRS, says the double-track project installation shows how far PTLRS has come since it was founded in 1985.

"We started out as a signalling installation company working with international suppliers such as Alstom and Westinghouse," Mose says. "We pushed our engineers so that we would have the capability to develop and design our own interlocking systems and by 1995 we were in a position to modify existing interlocking systems to make them electronic.

"We have continued to modify outdated equipment while developing our own systems, which led to the development of the SIL system in 2004 and our work on the double-track project. The government told us that we had to develop our capabilities to aid their efforts to improve the railway network which they want domestic companies to be in a position to lead."

Other domestic projects that PTLRS is working on include installing new computer-based interlockings (CBI) on lines around Gumilir station in central Java, supplying the signalling and telecommunications systems for the four-track project between Bekasi and Cikaranag in west Java which is expected to commence this year, and developing the signalling and train control system required for an automated monorail system being developed by a domestic consortium of five state-owned enterprises.

The consortium unveiled a mock-up of the system in May 2013 and aims to offer variations to cities, airports and port authorities at a cheaper price than its international competitors. PT Len and its partners in the project, construction firm PT Adhi Karya, toll-road operator PT Jasa Marga and telecommunications provider PT Telekomunikasi, are also working with airport authority PT Angkasa Pura II on adopting an automated peoplemover at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, and port operator PT Pelindo II, which is looking to install an automatic container transporter system in Jakarta.

"Our activities in the transport sector in the past few years have put us in a position where we can now offer a variety of systems that can help to improve transport capacity," Mose says. "We have good connections and relationships with partners in Indonesia and the next step is to sell our products to the rest of the Asian market."

To succeed outside of Indonesia Mose says PTLRS products need international recognition. Securing certification from TÜV Rhineland for its SIL-02 system was then a major breakthrough. But it's not just important for its products. PTLRS has established the Indonesian branch of the Institution of Railway Signalling Engineers (IRSE) and is now actively involved with the British-based institution through knowledge-sharing initiatives, which are helping its engineers to secure IRSE accreditation.

"Through working closely with the IRSE we aim to develop the manpower capacity and capability to develop the latest signalling products," says Mr Agung Darmawan Jr, vice-president of PT Len's technology and innovation centre division. "If we have experienced engineers, staff to carry out testing and commissioning, and project managers who understand what technology is best to use for signalling projects based on international best practice, we will be able to focus our research and development in the right areas which will put us in a better position to develop technology that will be accepted by the signalling community."

Darmawan admits that for new technologies like CBTC it is better at present for the company to develop the application system rather than the entire platform. However, the ambition does exist within the organisation to eventually produce its own platform and systems which are internationally certified and incorporate the latest technologies.

"Whenever local demand reduces we must be able to export our capabilities in order to survive," Darmawan says. "We understand that international standards are higher than local standards, but step by step we are increasing our technology to reach these levels."

As a result there is a great deal of emphasis on research and development at the company's headquarters in Bandung, with Mose stating that PT Len's shareholders now demand that at least one new product is developed a year which includes a new innovation.

Next generation

Inevitably attracting the next generation of engineers is crucial to the success of these ventures and Darmawan says recruitment agreements are in place with local universities to attract the best and the brightest amidst strong competition. These schemes are receiving both internal and government financial support, and Darmawan feels they are already having an impact.

He adds that plans are in the works to develop a domestic railway research institution for use by Indonesian manufacturers. Here engineers will be able to share knowledge and work together on projects that can test individual elements or indeed a complete railway system using a dedicated test track. "This is currently in the concept phase but we hope to start something in the next two to three years," Darmawan says.

By committing to such a research facility the government is sending out a further signal that it is serious about placing the domestic industry at the centre of the investments and projects included in the infrastructure masterplan. PT Len is certainly up for meeting the challenges that await. And from visiting their facilities and latest installations, and speaking to their staff members there is a clear buzz of excitement about what the manufacturer might be able to achieve over the next few years.