The government had promised to make a tram ride a little cheaper. For the past 72 hours, commuters have found to their pleasant surprise that “a little cheaper” means “nothing at all”.
Slow in responding to the mid-May fare rollback, the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) has failed to get the new tickets on track. This has allowed thousands of Calcuttans the never-before opportunity of free tram rides that began on Saturday and did not look like ending on Monday.
Among the ‘free-trippers’ were two Metro reporters. Politely turned down when they offered to pay their fare, they asked the reason. The conductor on an Esplanade-Park Circus tramcar said: “Passengers on the last trip saw red when I told them that they would have to pay the old fare. And how can I charge the new fare when I do not have the ticket'”
This was repeated throughout the day, throughout the city, almost wherever the tramcar runs. “Ticket, ticket aaj nei, ghurey nin joto paren (No tickets for today, travel as much as you wish),” was what Pranabesh Datta heard. Travelling from Tollygunge to Rashbehari Avenue, he was taken aback by the unforeseen munificence of a transport department wing struggling to stay on track.
The new fares were announced by the state transport department in the third week of May. Tickets priced at Rs 2.50, Rs 3 and Rs 3.50 were scaled down to Rs 2.25, Rs 2.75 and Rs 3.25, respectively, to be implemented from June 7.
And the losses, due to the laxity, are mounting by the ride. About 150 of the CTC’s fleet of 320 trams ply daily, accounting for a total of 750-odd trips throughout the day. Each tram rakes in around Rs 2,000 every day, say officials. That brings in approximately Rs 3 lakh to the CTC’s coffer every day. So, three days of normal services would have got the cash-strapped organisation Rs 9 lakh, officials explained. CTC officials — and those working from the depots and on the cars — said most routes went without any ticket sales for the past three days.
CTC chairman Rajdeo Goala, also CPM legislator from the Belgachhia (West) constituency, admitted “adequate” tickets could not be sent out. “I have been told of the free rides,” he said.
But Goala was quick to add that he was not aware of the quantum of losses. “I am not aware of the daily operational cost and, hence, can’t tell you the exact losses.”