In Pictures: Calcutta’s Fading Trams


Kushal Sakunia profiles the fading Tram services of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in this memoir

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Kolkata is the only city in India that still has trams. This year, the city’s tram service is celebrating its 150th Anniversary. However, over the last two decades, lack of investment,
inadequate maintenance & a sharp fall in passengers have led to a decline in their status.
Pic 2
The first tramway service in Kolkata was run between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 Nov. Again Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks were laid from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat. The route was inaugurated by the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, on 1 November 1880.
Pic 3
By the end of the nineteenth century the company owned 166 tram cars, 1000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks.
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Electrification of the tramway was done in 1900. Calcutta Tram is the oldest operating electric tram in Asia. By 1943, it had a total track length of 42 miles.
Pic 5
There are seven tram depots and nine terminals and one workshop. Today, the fleet has a more than 300 trams, but rolls out around 125 trams a day because of low passenger traffic & lack of funds for maintenance.
Pic 6
According to the state transport department, though CTC earns about Rs 50 crore a year from its tram and bus services, it spends a lot more on salaries to its workforce of about 6,500.  There is a yawning gap between earning and expenditure. According to reports, it sometimes finds it difficult to pay its employees on time.
Pic 7
Over the years, a number of services have been shut down. With the CTC finding it difficult to find funds for the daily maintenance of an old fleet, more and more tram cars are being taken off the road.
Pic 8
The trams in the city carries around 16,000 passengers a day, but the traffic continues to fall.
Pic 9
The image of the good old tram trundling along rickety roads and a rain drenched Maidan may vanish forever under the horrific image of a tram full of the stench and stink of fish and vegetables. The CTC would soon be using the second-class compartments of some trams as goods carriage to ferry goods.
Pic 10
In a bid to rescue and revive its old glory, the CTC has recently rolled out air conditioned trams. It has to be seen if this struggle for survival yields any result.
Hoping this make you relive the charm if you had been a user ever 🙂
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2 thoughts on “In Pictures: Calcutta’s Fading Trams

  1. Sampurna Majumder

    good job! I had been contemplating about this topic for quite sometime ! but u must take a ride sometime. Its quite a unique experience I must say!

    Reply
  2. Mukesh Khandelwal

    Nice article. Calcutta should learn some lessons from Amsterdam and other european cities. The trams have been modernized and they run almost as fast as the buses.. they are not something that just reminds of the past, but are also relevant in the modern world.

    Reply

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