They are usually overlooked, barely noticed by the daily throng of commuters rushing to catch the next train, bus or taxi.
The demands of their job are no less challenging or important than any other occupation – our public transport system would be unable to function without them – yet, their work is often taken for granted by the public.
They are the transport service staff of Singapore – from bus captains to senior station managers to customer service officers, these individuals play an important role in helping us get to our destination.
These transport heroes will be honoured at the National Kindness Transport Gold Awards – an annual awards ceremony which recognises transport service staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty this past year to make our commute a pleasant experience.
The Pride speaks to two of this year’s award winners to find out what drives them to make a positive difference in the lives of commuters.
His empathy and compassion eases commuter’s embarrassment
With close to 30 years of experience working on the frontline at SMRT Trains Ltd, senior station manager S Nadarajan has come across a variety of difficult situations – from having to calm down irate passengers to helping drunk commuters get home safely, the 53-year-old has seen and resolved it all.
Earlier this year, however, Nadarajan found himself faced with one of the more unique and challenging cases of his career.
It involved an unwell commuter who, due to a particularly severe bout of diarrhoea, had accidentally soiled the train station Nadarajan was working at.
Understandably embarrassed and distressed by the situation, the commuter, whose clothes were also soiled, rushed into the nearest toilet and stayed there, too agitated to think of what to do next.
The first thing he did was to soothe the flustered commuter by speaking in a calm and caring manner.
After ascertaining that no urgent medical assistance was required, Nadarajan led the commuter to the handicap toilet to wash up.
But, Nadarajan was not done yet: he proceeded to find fresh clothing – including a new pair of pants and footwear – for the commuter to change into.
Thanks to Nadarajan, the commuter was able to leave the station in clean clothes, with dignity intact.
Nadarajan’s actions earned him the gratitude of the affected commuter, who subsequently wrote to SMRT to praise him for his professionalism and empathy.
But, despite having done so much for the commuter, Nadarajan does not believe he did anything out of the ordinary that day.
“For my colleagues and I, our duty is to take care of all the passengers who come to us, no matter the situation,” Nadarajan explained.
“There are many other cases which I’ve handled before that are arguably more challenging than this particular incident. But for me, it’s simple – I just want to ensure the safety of all commuters, and to help make their journey as pleasant as possible by assisting them in whatever way we can.”
In another incident, Nadarajan was at the Bras Basah MRT station when he was approached for help by a commuter who had misplaced a valuable card holder while travelling on the train.
After taking down the commuter’s particulars, he immediately went to hunt for the misplaced card holder.
Following a thorough search, which included checks on the Lost & Found reports from other train stations, Nadarajan was finally able to locate the card holder at Bishan MRT station.
He then arranged for the card holder to be dispatched back to Bras Basah station, so that it would be convenient for the commuter – who lived nearby – to collect it.
These two incidents are prime examples of the sort of service standards that Nadarajan adheres to, and show just why he will be one of the award recipients at the National Kindness Transport Gold Awards.
Nadarajan, however, does not believe the award should go to him alone, but his whole team.
“I can’t run a train station on my own…it takes all of us here at the station working together to ensure the best experience for our commuters,” explained Nadarajan.
“Even in the two incidents, I needed my team to help me out – be it in cleaning the station, or in searching for the card holder – and it’s through teamwork that we managed to achieve what we did.
“So really, this award is as much for everyone else in my team as it is for me.”
She goes out of her way to return lost items
Having misplaced her belongings before, Tay Yu Ying, a Customer Service Officer for bus operators Go-Ahead Singapore, is well aware of how upsetting it can be to lose a valuable item.
That is why the 25-year-old makes it a point to do all she can to reunite any lost items that are found at Go-Ahead’s two bus interchanges in Punggol and Pasir Ris with their rightful owners.
It was precisely this attitude that led Yu Ying to take time out from her own schedule to return a misplaced wallet by taking it right to its owner’s doorstep.
“It started out when we found a lost wallet at the Punggol Bus interchange. Unfortunately, there were no contact details in the wallet, and no one had made a Lost & Found report either, so we didn’t know how to get in touch with the owner,” Yu Ying, who joined Go-Ahead just over a year ago, recounted.
“The only lead we had to go on was the owner’s identification card (IC). From there, we knew where the owner of the wallet lived. Usually, we would send a mail over to inform the owner to come down and pick up the wallet from us.
“However, it would have taken at least two days before the owner would receive the mail. I knew from experience how awful it feels to lose something as valuable as your wallet, so I could imagine how worried and anxious the owner must have felt in the meantime.
“Therefore, I decided to make a trip down to the owner’s house in Punggol on the day itself, after work, to return the wallet.”
Naturally, the owner was “relieved and thankful” to Yu Ying for her act of kindness, and commended her for going above and beyond to return the wallet.
While this incident resulted in a happy ending for all parties involved, Yu Ying revealed that there were several other times when she was chided by commuters for failing to find their lost items.
“When we cannot find what our passengers misplaced, they will sometimes scold us and label us incompetent,” Yu Ying said. “But, it really depends on the amount of information they provide us as well, and how accurate it is.
“Of course, when I get scolded, it can make me feel like I’m not doing good enough. But, I’ve since learnt to realise that this is part and parcel of the job, and that as long as I know I’ve done my best to help the person out, and my conscience is clear, I should not feel bad.”
Conversely, Yu Ying says that she feels encouraged whenever commuters take the time to recognise their efforts in assisting them.
“We always try our best to help our passengers, be it in searching for their lost items or other requests,” said Yu Ying. “But, we are not always appreciated, because many of them feel it’s our job to help them out in the first place.
“So, for people to write in and compliment me, I feel encouraged that my efforts are being valued. It makes me feel like, by helping them out, I’ve genuinely made a positive impact in their lives, and this motivates me even further in my job.”