Alarmed at the growing congestion on most streets, the government has decided to ‘de-reserve’ tram tracks on five thoroughfares and create more roadspace.
The designated stretches for the tram tracks to become part of the traffic lanes are Maniktala Main Road and APC Roy Road in north Calcutta; Diamond Harbour Road, Rashbehari Avenue and Amir Ali Avenue in south Calcutta. According to transport department officials, the tracks, reserved for trams only, will now be “levelled” to make them accessible for all other vehicles, too.
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty held a meeting with senior departmental officers recently to finalise the project, pegged at Rs 25 crore. Prashant, joint secretary in the transport department, said all formalities have been completed and work will start “within a couple of weeks”. The aim is to complete the project before monsoon, he added.
“It would have been better had the tram services been withdrawn from some busy roads altogether for smooth vehicular movement. However, as that is not possible right now, we shall not allow the tracks to be reserved, which is wholly unscientific and unrealistic. Why should thousands of vehicles suffer for a few trams that carry very few passengers' So much roadspace cannot be kept blocked for trams,’’ declared Chakraborty.
Tracks on the five ‘target’ roads have been laid in a manner that does not allow any other vehicle to ply — they are either elevated, or have railings running along their sides.
“As the tracks occupy almost half of the road, the entire vehicular pressure is borne by the remaining space. Moreover, the number of trams plying daily is negligible compared to other vehicles forced to use the narrow stretches. As the entire traffic system is suffering due to the ‘reserved’ tram tracks, we have decided to level those out and create more road space for other vehicles,’’ explained Prashant.
Besides causing car chaos, it is very difficult to repair the roads with ‘reserved’ tramlines. “In Calcutta, where the road space is very limited, there should not be anything reserved on it,’’ stressed Prashant. “Look at Maniktala Main Road, a vital link between north and central Calcutta, nearly half of which is blocked for trams. As a result, traffic snarls have become a regular feature there. It is no different on Rashbehari Avenue and Syed Amir Ali Avenue, where the available roadspace is too little to bear the traffic load. Levelling the tramlines should definitely curb car chaos,’’ he added.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee had earlier warned that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation would not repair any roads with tram tracks and urged the transport minister to withdraw tram services, at least from some thoroughfares.
Chakraborty said the transport department is moving towards adopting modern technology in repairing and maintaining tram tracks.