Kolkata: Last week saw the launch of the school edition in Kolkata. Earlier in the first week of September, Union Minister of Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Kamal Nath had suggested the initiation of a pilot project on tramways that could be integrated with the present transport systems in medium-sized cities.
Kamal Nath’s argument was that this model could connect places where Metro and monorail cannot reach. These are the reasons why freewheeling focuses on tram this week.
What is a tram?
A rail vehicle which runs on tracks laid on streets is called a tram. It is also referred to as tramcar, streetcar, trolley car etc. Since it is powered by electricity, trams are also called as the electric street railways. Earlier, horse and mule driven trams were used. A few still exist, just to help the tourists get a hang of the olden times. Tram vehicles are usually lighter and shorter than trains. In earlier times, steam, petrol (gasoline), gas and draft animals have been used to run the tram.
A brief history
Kolkata is the only city which still has this mode of transport. It is so much an integral part of its rich heritage that it is called the lifeline of the city. The city’s first tramcar rolled out on 24 February 1873. The first line was laid between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat street for a total distance of 3.8km. It was not welcomed by people then and it was ultimately wound up in November that year. Calcutta Tramways Co. Ltd. was formed in 1880 and horse-drawn tram track was laid. The company grew manifold. By the end of the nineteenth century, the company owned 186 tramcars, 1000 horses, 7 steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks.
In 1905, the entire system was converted to an electric traction. Now, Calcutta Tramway Ltd., is a Government Company under the Companies Act, 1956 where the share capital lies with the Governor of the State of West Bengal. Over the past two decades, various reasons like lack of investments, inadequate maintenance, slow speed etc. has led to a sharp decline in the number of passengers. The same system which used to ply 7.5 lakh passengers per day with 275 cars on road has now become 1.6 lakh passengers per day with 170 cars.
Benefits of this vintage car
The decline in the usage of trams can be attributed to enormous number of luxury cars and bikes flooding the Indian market. Kolkata has still managed to brave the odds and sustain this transport system. Trams have greater passenger capacity; it is eco-friendly, sturdy and safe. Finally, it is undoubtedly the cheapest mode of the transport.