The former West Bengal Transport Minister, Shyamol Chakraborty, stated in a public interview in 1992, “Trams are obsolete. They will die a natural death.” 

Kolkata’s trams are a sentimental heritage for the people of West Bengal. Kolkata was the earliest city in Asia to introduce trams on its streets, and it is currently the only city in the entire continent where these electrical transports still exist. But these nostalgic vehicles seem to be nearing their end due to the steep rise in electricity prices, and the government’s lack of awareness.

The streets of Kolkata once buzzed with trams; it is your lucky day if you can spot more than two of them now. Trams are the cheapest means of transport, but they are on their last legs.

Life Of A Tram Driver

Jagannath Shah, a 57-year-old man from Bihar, started his journey in Calcutta as a tram driver. His father was a tram driver as well. He works for seven hours, starting from the Gariahat depot and completing six laps every day. Shah moved to the city in 1985, and he’s been driving trams since then. He is optimistic that trams in Kolkata will never go extinct, even if there are just two of them on the road.

Shah said, “I have been hearing since 1985 that trams will stop running. Yet here we are, in a tram. In future, even if it’s only two trams, Calcutta Tramways Company will continue its journey, although I will retire in the next two-and-a-half years.” He added, “All the routes have been shut down except two — Ballygunge to Tollygunge and Gariahat to Esplanade.” 

What Trams Mean To The People Of Kolkata

Trams are almost an emotion for the people of Kolkata. Films like Satyajit Ray’s “Mahanagar” or Sujoy Ghosh’s “Kahaani” have immortalized trams among the inhabitants of Kolkata. The image of “Calcutta trams” has been perpetually etched in our hearts.

Interior of a Tram

Arghyadip Hatua, a 24-year-old core committee member of the Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA), talked about the organization’s goals and missions and said, “We have over 4,000 members worldwide supporting the cause and 30 members on the ground who meet once a month to discuss measures.”

He added, “Our vision is to revive the trams as a sustainable mode of transport. We have researched how trams running on solar power would be a fitting upgrade for the old carriages of Kolkata. Through media advocacy, RTI, PILs, social media, we take our voices to the people of Kolkata.”

Debashish Bhattacharya, the president of CTUA, is a 66-year-old researcher who finds it extremely difficult to accept that Calcutta trams are in their final stages.

He said, “Tram depots, which were spread across massive plots in the city, were a goldmine for the government. Majority of the tram depots have been turned into bus depots. Tram cars have been neglected and ruined as there is no proper upkeep.”

Also Read: Watch: The Story Behind The Calcutta Tram Users Association

Efforts To Save The Tram Culture In Kolkata 

The State Government of Kolkata is, however, spreading awareness among the Kolkata inhabitants that trams are disappearing from their lives. The present Transport Minister of Kolkata, Snehashis Chakraborty, said, “Kolkata’s roads have shrunk with an increase in vehicles. But trams won’t go off road.

Chief Minister [Mamata Banerjee] is constantly working for the development and we will be celebrating trams as Calcutta Tramways completes 150 years next year. We are hopeful to reopen a few more routes shortly.”

Rajanvir Singh Kapur, manager of The West Bengal State Transport Corporation, claimed, “We are hopeful at least five more routes will be operational by March next year. We are in talks with the Metro authorities.” He added, “We have Asia’s first library on wheels.

It was to bring the youth to use the trams. We also have a ‘tram world’ in Gariahat depot where tram enthusiasts can stroll. The air-conditioned coaches have free WiFi and the map routes are colour-coded for easy understanding and available on the Pathadisha app.”

While trams were a part of a lot of our childhoods, the journey of this elegant vehicle in Calcutta seems to be at an end unless serious measures are taken to prevent its extinction.

Let us know in the comment section below if you are a tram enthusiast.

Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked 

Image Credits: Google Photos

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

Source: The PrintThe Indian Express & The Logical Indian

Find The Blogger: @ekparna_p

This post is tagged under: Calcutta trams, Kolkata, trams, Calcutta, heritage, heritage of Calcutta, Calcutta cacophony, electric vehicle, beauty of Kolkata, extinct, transport, West Bengal Transport Minister, Snehashis Chakraborty, old Calcutta, tram depot, Kolkata Tram Depot 

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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