When you work in Transport, more often than not what motivates you to get up and come to work is the chance to make a difference. Every day our colleagues give their all to make people’s lives better. On some days that means going above and beyond the call of duty. Transport Mode salutes these everyday heroes, whose extraordinary actions, big and small, show our values in action and are an inspiration to us all.

Maritime lifeline

When a luxury cruiser exploded into flames on Sydney Harbour the four men on board were left with no choice but to dive into the dangerous harbour waters.

Maritime Services Boating Officer Troy Polidano, who had responded to a distress signal and was first on the scene, said the fire wasn’t the only deadly threat the fishermen faced that day.

“There was a shark in the water only 20 or 30 metres away from where the men were treading water and the fin was clearly visible,” Troy said.

Thankfully the men were wearing life jackets and Troy was able to quickly pull them to safety on board his patrol boat.

In the wake of the incident, the boat’s skipper took to social media to thank the rescue crew. “Thank you to all the officers who helped out today when my boat caught fire at the Heads,” he wrote. “You guys were unbelievable. We are lucky to have a team like you.”

But apparently it’s all in a day’s work for Troy. When asked if he felt like a hero, Troy said, “No, it’s just part of the job!”

Lending a hand

When NSW TrainLink’s Sean Herrett came across some people in his community at Goulburn who were doing it tough, he felt he had to help. Now his compassionate approach has inspired the NSW TrainLink Linked program which provides a guide for other teams who want to support customers in need.

“It all started because we had some customers who wanted to travel from Goulburn to Albury overnight on the $2.50 fare, but sometimes they didn’t meet our terms of travel because of how 
they were dressed and presented.

“When I found out a bit more it turned out many of them were sleeping rough and the train was somewhere safe and warm where they could spend the night.

“At first I just cleaned out my wardrobe and my wife cooked a little bit extra each week and we put together some hampers to give out.

“It changed the whole dynamic from a confrontation where we were refusing these customers travel, to a situation where we got to know them and found out about their stories.

“It made me realise how difficult it can be to get support when you’re homeless, for example you need a residential address to apply for some types of assistance.”

Sean decided to do something. He got in touch with the Mayor of Goulburn, the local office of Family and Community Services, Anglicare and other local community organisations.

They arranged a meeting so the Goulburn Station team could find out about the services available, who to contact and how to apply.

Sean said it’s really rewarding and uplifting that now they’re able to help people not only get access to services, but also to gain back some dignity.

“We let people know where they can go for everything from a shower or somewhere to wash their clothes to medical assistance or emergency accommodation.

“And what used to be just a few hampers I put together myself, is now cupboards full of hygiene packs, swag beds, blankets, food hampers and clothing.

“It’s been such a positive experience. Working in Transport in a regional area, we’re a central part of the community so it feels good to be able to help people and it’s also made our jobs easier,” Sean said.

Protecting our passengers

State Transit bus drivers move more than 150 million people around Sydney every year and as they do, the top priority is always keeping people safe throughout the journey.

A lot of things have been done to better protect passengers and drivers – CCTV has been installed on most buses, we’ve worked closely with the NSW Police who regularly patrol State Transit services and security screens have been installed to protect drivers from assault.

Sometimes though it’s quick thinking and action by drivers themselves that saves the day and gets customers home safe and sound.

That’s just what happened when Scott Hoskin found that a man on his Eastern Suburbs bus service was harassing and assaulting female passengers.

“A young girl came up to me and asked me to stop the bus because she wanted to get off. She was crying and very distressed because she’d been assaulted by a man at the back of the bus,” Scott said.

“I stopped the bus and went to see what was happening. There was a group of girls and a guy sitting behind them but no one could tell me what was going on.

“At the second to last stop two of the girls came to the front door and said that the man behind them had looked up one of the girls’ skirts and was doing some inappropriate things.

“I triggered the offence button right away which sends an emergency signal to the radio room so the police can be notified.

“I knew the police would be on their way so I started acting like there was something wrong with the bus. The man tried to push past me but I blocked the aisle with the cabin door and held my position until the police arrived,” Scott said.

Scott says he doesn’t feel like a hero: “I think the girls are the brave ones to come up to me and say something,” he said.

Keeping our customers safe

Keeping the focus on passenger safety is all in a day’s work for State Transit bus driver, Ray Zhou, who took swift action to protect his customers from a verbally and physically abusive customer.

“The guy looked alright when I picked him up, but within about 15 seconds he was yelling and swearing and I could see he was bothering passengers around him,” Ray said.

“But when he hit a passenger who was trying to get past him to exit the bus that’s when I knew the bus had become unsafe.

“I hit the emergency button and when I saw police officers had arrived up ahead, I stopped and told them I needed help and they took over to make an unsafe situation safe,” he said.

A wheely clever solution

If you live near a curved section of railway line, you’re probably familiar with the high-pitched, screeching noise that freight trains can make as they pass by. It’s no surprise that this sound, which has been dubbed ‘wheel squeal’, is the biggest source of noise complaints on the rail network.

Wheel squeal has been a problem for decades all over the world and it did not have a clear solution until Jiandong Jiang came along.

“In the past, we’d taken a trial and error approach to wheel squeal. I knew that the secret to fixing it was finding the root cause of the problem so we could stop it in its tracks.” Jiandong said. 

He undertook ground-breaking research, using complex mathematics and innovative methods, such as tapping in to ‘big data’ involving millions of wheel passes, to finally get to the bottom of this high-pitched hitch. Jiandong discovered that wheel squeal is caused by poor wagon steering, and that it could be almost totally eliminated by making some simple upgrades to the wagons. 

Jiandong said, “In simple terms it means the wheels are rubbing against the rail with excessive force, which causes the noise”. 

The solution to this issue can be implemented at low cost and also cuts fuel and maintenance costs, so it’s good news for freight operators. And of course, it’s great for customers and communities living near railway lines who will no longer have to hear the piercing sound.

Based on Jiandong’s research, rail operators upgraded 100 freight wagons that they have been running on the network over the last few years to trial the solution – and none of them have had issues with wheel squeal. It’s now being rolled out to thousands more freight wagons across our network.

Not only has Jiandong’s remarkable work enabled us to develop a low-cost and effective way to minimise wheel squeal, it has also led to the introduction of a world-first Freight Wagon Steering Performance Standard. As a result freight operators have developed plans to upgrade their wagons over the next few years, so the benefits will be felt throughout NSW. 

Jiandong was recognised for his innovative solution with the Bright Spark award in the 2018 Transport Awards, and he has also spoken at the International Wheel Rail Conference in Chicago and won the Andrew Wearne Memorial Prize for contributions to rail noise.

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