The “City of Joy” and its tram ride is synonymous. Kolkata trams are one of those deeply rooted historic entities which were once a pride of this megacity! It’s one of those distinct features that lend a very special look to Kolkata unlike other metros. This antediluvian mode of transport has slowly faded away from the face of Kolkata in the last five years. Long back in 1873, the first horse drawn tram came into existence. These horse drawn trams were popularly known as “Indian Eagle”. They were actually imported from England in the times of British Raj. After revamping, the electric tram in Kolkata became a widely accessed mode of transport for average Kolkatans.
The city has diverse mode of transports starting right from regular government buses, private buses, AC Volvos, cabs, underground tube rail, rickshaws and autos. But the tram service has its own charm as it takes you to the bygone era. Most of us who are born and brought up in the city of Kolkata have undoubtedly accessed tramcars for various purposes. For the past four to five years, Kolkata has slowly dropped curtains on this iconic transport. With just a handful of tramcars left, this nostalgic mode of transport is still plying in some portions of the city. In the current context, only 125 tramcars are operational. To meet the ever growing needs of rapid urbanization and newer techniques in transportation, today this old car in Kolkata is a thing of the past. At present, this heritage transport is active on 21 routes and talks are going on to reinstate the closed routes in the coming days, if possible.
If we look back, in the year 1902, Lord Curzon was the torch bearer who introduced the electric tram services in Kolkata. For easy transportation of goods and police contingents, electric tram service was initiated at that time. Revolutionists had apathy towards this tram service as it was considered a British import. As a result, during the colonial times, many tram cars were damaged by the revolutionists as a mark of expressing their protests.
For centuries, trams have been the most reliable mode of transport in Kolkata. During the 1950s, almost 300 tram cars crisscrossed the city from Kolkata to Howrah. In the 1930s, most Indian cities had pull over tram services. But Kolkata continued with this vintage mode of transport without giving in to the demands. In spite of urbanization and automobile explosion, Kolkata tram cars witnessed and survived the ups and downs of the uphill journey of this city. Though scantily, tram service of Kolkata continues with its faded glory of the old charm of the city!
Among heavily caked industrialization and political upheaval, Kolkata Tramways Corporation still manages to restore and keep rolling three wonders – namely Charaibati, Banalata and Balaka – the air conditioned tram cars of Kolkata. The vibrant color, neatly done glass windows with fancy curtains and the comfy cushioned seats make these air conditioned tram cars quite an inviting mode of transportation that travels in Kolkata on few selective locations. The plush interiors of these AC trams give you an unforgettable glimpse of old Kolkata! Tickets for this tram ride would cost Rs. 260 each along with snacks; these heritage vehicles have been used quite a few times in films and advertisement shoots. Mostly, you’ll find these tram cars on few heritage routes especially in the central and north Kolkata. West Bengal tourism department and Calcutta Tram Corporation worked in tandem to launch this prestigious project.
These tram cars have four rides from morning through evening north to south. The AC tram car service has become quite popular with weekends and festive seasons witnessing the maximum crowd. Discounts are also available if it’s hired entirely. Many companies hire these AC trams for weekend outings. It covers some of the heritage spots like Hastings House, Curzon Park, iconic Governor House, Jorasanko Thakurbari, Star Theatre, Jorasanko Rajbari, College Street to name a few. This classic transport has been named as the oldest operating electric tram in Asia.
Being a true blue Bengali, I personally don’t support tram cars to be shunned away totally from the face of Kolkata. To give an impetus to the modern modes of transport and to curb increasing traffic problems, Kolkata tram service has been limited. To accommodate modern and faster conveyance, Kolkata is willing to sacrifice this evergreen mode of transport. But how we forget that tram cars are by far the most ‘green’ and pollution-free way of traveling? Whenever one thinks of the history of Kolkata, the tram service is an invariable feature that comes to the mind instantly with a touch of romanticism! Keeping all opinions and reviews aside, Kolkata tram and its immemorial heritage will keep Kolkatans proud forever! To reiterate Mehmet Murat ilden, the Turkish playwright and novelist “There is always something sad about the trams, may be because they are like our lives: they appear from nothingness and disappear in the horizon of the crowds”.