Calcutta Tramways Company is laying new tracks in Maidan, where heritage rides will be introduced to showcase the country’s only tram network through one of the most beautiful pockets of the city that houses Victoria Memorial Hall and one of the oldest turf clubs.
A 5-km-long circular loop of tracks will be laid near the racecourse, which will take people on a ride through the Maidan greens. Tracks connecting Esplanade to Kidderpore already exist, but a separate line will be laid for the heritage ride. “Tram is a part of Kolkata’s heritage that we want to turn into a tourist attraction. We already run several special services for tourists and the response has been good. Those services operate on existing tracks. For this project, we are laying new tracks in the Maidan area, where the green expanse will add to tourists’ experience,” said a CTC engineer. The agency has already floated a tender to execute the work. “This loop of tracks will be meant exclusively for heritage tram rides. Refreshments and other attractions will be offered on board,” another official said.
Welcoming the heritage ride, an expert pointed out that trams evoked nostalgia and romance but the green mode of transport was fast disappearing from roads, with the government either discontinuing services or truncating them on certain routes. In spite of trams making a comeback in cities across the world for its unique functioning that did not generate air pollution, the authorities here were trying to discontinue the network to decongest roads, enthusiasts claimed. They added that the network was also viewed as a “burden” on old flyovers, such as the ones near RG Kar Hospital and at Sealdah.
Trams rolled out in the city towards the end of the 19th century and by mid-20th century, it had turned into one of the most important modes of transportation. But over the years, faster modes of transport, such as buses, trains and taxis, have taken over trams, rendering it almost “out of date”. Several routes in the city have been discontinued owing to different reasons. The handful of routes, where trams still operate are Esplanade-Shyambazar, Esplanade-Gariahat, Esplanade-Khidderpore and Tollygunge-Ballygunge.
CTC has come up with a few innovative moves to revive the sick organisation, heritage tours and restaurants on wheels being a few of them. The company now operates a couple of heritage services on Sunday mornings and holidays, when AC trams take people on a ride through the old parts of north and south Kolkata, offering a guided tour, along with Wi-Fi facilities and refreshments. A few years ago, an effort was made to pitch trams for the Unesco heritage tag.
Source: Times of India