The Kolkata trams started operations in 1902, supported by the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC). It's one of the oldest existing tramways in Asia. These trams initially started with more than 35 lines supporting the function of tram networks. Now, only three-four lines are left due to low ridership, financial constraints, expansion of Metros, and poor maintenance.
Trams, once the household name for commuters to meet their daily travel needs in Kolkata, have started phasing out from the streets. The perception prevailing in the city is that they have become outdated, run at a languid speed, and occupy a lot of road space, leading to traffic congestion. Due to this, the talks are being held to eliminate the operation of trams in Kolkata completely. The city's iconic transport system is now expected to have fewer routes.
In a recent announcement, the West Bengal Transport Department has mentioned introducing E-trolley buses which will operate using the overhead electric cables earlier used to operate trams. This could be an unpleasing piece of information for tram lovers, but the trams in the city of joy are on the way to being terminated completely.
The Introduction Of Trams In Kolkata
Initially, the horse-drawn trams were introduced on Kolkata roads, running between Armenian Ghat and Sealdah. Due to low public demand, the horse-drawn trams started facing financial struggles and were discontinued. The Calcutta Tramway Company was formed in 1880, and soon after, in 1902, the first-of-its-kind electric tramcar was introduced and ran between Kidderpore to Esplanade.
The electric trams in the early 1900s were imported from England, and the working-class population started finding it an affordable and economical commuting medium. Due to the popularity, many tram depots and new E-trams were introduced in the city. Some newly introduced routes were Esplanade to Bagbazar, Esplanade to Sealdah, Howrah Station to Bandhaghat, and Hatibagan Junction to Ahirtola Junction. A total of 38 routes were functional, and the trams were used to cover all the routes on a daily basis.
The E-tram manufacturing shifted from England to Kolkata, where Burn of Howrah and Jessop & Company took over the manufacturing project. Initially, the tram companies introduced two categories for commuters, the first and second class, with a capacity of 61 passengers in total. The trams used to feature ceiling fans, fancy interiors, and comfortable seats, which the passengers used to get the taste of Kolkata's heritage.
The popularity kept surging till another mode of transportation was not introduced. In the late 1980s, the city founded its rapid transit system, 'Kolkata Metro.' Throughout significant urbanisation and the introduction of private cabs, the Kolkata trams kept witnessing a downfall in popularity.
E-Buses To Takeover City's Lifeline
In a recent announcement, the West Bengal Transport Minister, Firhad Hakim, mentioned in the state legislative assembly that the government is planning to limit the transit of trams only for the wide stretches and restrict its functioning in the narrow lanes. It will be phased out in stretches where the trams are operating in the middle of the busy line, reported The Times of India.
The trams will be replaced with trolley buses that will use the overhead cables on which the trams operate. A government official mentioned that a trolley bus is being sourced from Poland for the trial run.