The sight of trams plying was once a common enough sight in Kolkata. Now, however, the service is ailing. This pollution-free mode of transport has been given a short shrift in the last few years. Now, however, things might look up again.
Decay and disrepair
In India, trams were introduced by the British colonial rulers in the 19th century. Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kanpur and Delhi had trams running. However, due to various reasons, the service was discontinued in all the cities except Kolkata. Here, it remained a very important part of the transport system, being availed by thousands of commuters daily.
However, over the last few years, for reasons ranging from widening of streets to concretisation of tracks to frequent breakdowns of trams and poor maintenance of tracks, many trams were withdrawn or their frequency reduced. Just lying in the depots led to the decay of the vehicles. An important mode of transport was dying. Now, if things go according to plan, trams would return to their glory days.
Under a new initiative by the state transport department, 150 trams lying defunct in the various tram depots in the city would be repaired and put back on the streets. Having realised the importance trams can play in the transport system of the city, being passenger- and environment-friendly, the department has sanctioned Rs 3 crore to the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) for this project.
In the 1970s and 80s, about 300 trams used to run in Kolkata. That has now come down to 125. However, CTC has total of 280 trams at its depots, which are being repaired. Renovation work is on on a war-footing at the Nonapukur, Esplanade, Bidhannagar, Tollygunge, Park Circus and Behala depots. As a result, more and more trams are expected to run in the city in the coming months and years.
This project would also reduce the enormous expenditure being borne by CTC in repairing trams. The CTC is spending about Rs 20 and Rs 50 lakh to repair each tram.
Marketing to survive
Revival of trams would of course lead to the restoration of a pollution-less mode of travel. Equally significantly, it would lead to the rehabilitation of a heritage mode of transport, an important part of the city’s history. In India, trams being unique to Kolkata, they can be marketed to foreign as well as Indian tourists. Some tours are already organised for tourists on trams. More such tours can be organised. Other innovations like restaurants on trams, libraries on trams, etc. which are popular in many cities around the world, can be introduced. Some places also have double-decker trams, which can carry more people.
Trams bring back a lot of memories. When I came to Calcutta to study in college, trams fascinated me. I used to ride them often. Hope this revival keeps trams on the city tracks permanently. The way they have been maintained in cities like Melbourne and San Francisco has a lot to be learnt from.
During my school days I used to go to school by tram. From Tollygunje to Ballygunje. A smooth and pocket friendly ride.
October 23, 2013
Which school in Ballygunge? I also used to go to Ballygunge by tram from Rashbehari. I studied in Ballygunge Jagadbandhu Institution.
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