The government has no plans to phase out trams from the city. Instead, it has decided to upgrade the century-old cars, according to state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Wednesday.
The minister told reporters at Writers’ Buildings that a pilot project was being worked out to improve tram services. “We are taking suggestions from countries like Japan, China, the UK, Germany and Australia on how to upgrade the vehicles,” he said.
Chakraborty pointed out that the revamp was being delayed as funds were needed for more important projects. “We have to get our priorities right. The construction of a bridge is more important than the upgradation of tramcars,” he added.
Trams are being withdrawn from certain routes because of road renovation, the minister admitted. “But that does not mean trams will stop plying. They will operate only on routes where passenger capacity merits them,” he maintained.
Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) chief accounts officer R.N. Ghosh said trams were being withdrawn from at least 10 routes to facilitate “renovation work”.
Services have been discontinued between the Ballygunge and Gariahat depots due to the construction of the Gariahat flyover.
According to officials, around 150 to 180 trams cover a 68-km stretch between Joka and Belgachhia on nearly 30 routes daily. Last year, the CTC had incurred losses to the tune of Rs 25 crore.
Contract bus strike
With the strike by the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association entering its third day on Wednesday, the minister said he was going to be very firm. Chakraborty warned that the licences of the bus-owners would be cancelled if the strike continued. “I shall wait for four days before issuing the order,” he said.
The association, which controls nearly 1,200 chartered buses ferrying schoolchildren and office-goers, launched the strike on March 24 to protest the government’s decision to enhance its annual permit fee and road tax. It has also been demanding that private cars not be allowed to carry schoolchildren.
Association spokesman Anurag Agarwal said they met Chakraborty on Wednesday. The minister is learnt to have told the association members that he would see to it that private cars were not used to carry schoolchildren to their educational institutions. He also promised that there would not be any enhancement of road tax. “However, Chakraborty refused to say anything on the permit fee hike,” said an association member.