From teetering on the edge of oblivion, the tramcar seems to have turned trendy, again.
Calcutta's oldest mechanised form of public transport is poised to battle back, thanks to a Rs 30-crore track-renewal and road-repair programme steered by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government with leftover flyover funds.
Buoyed by the smooth ride on dereserved tram tracks along the Gariahat Road-Park Circus stretch, both the government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) have decided to take a fresh look at the much-maligned streetcar.
The south Calcutta stretch ' a project undertaken by the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners and executed by Tantia Construction ' seems to have turned around opinion on the tramcar on its head, starting with the mayor.
Subrata Mukherjee, long opposed to the traffic-stopper tramcar, sang a different tune on Wednesday: 'The dereservation along the two stretches (the other being Rajabazar-APC Road) shows that trams may not hinder traffic and prove to be an efficient mode of city transport, after all.'
On the two stretches, the roads have been concretised and new tram tracks relaid at road level. This allows more road space for vehicular traffic, resulting in an increase in the average speed of travel.
Promising to launch an initiative for trams, the mayor added: 'I shall take up the matter with the government to ensure that tram tracks across the city are revamped like Gariahat and Rajabazar. We should get financial assistance for this from abroad.'
With work on the Rs 400-crore flyover package, funded by the Japan Bank For International Cooperation (JBIC), nearing completion, the government has now shifted focus to renewal of tram tracks and concretising of select roads and junctions from leftover funds, amounting to Rs 30 crore.
The transport department has formulated an Additional Wide-Area Traffic Management plan, worth Rs 30 crore, for concretising roads and renewing tram tracks.
The proposal was sent to the department of economic affairs for clearance earlier this month.
'The department will take up the matter formally with the Japanese government and the JBIC,' said a transport department official.
The 65-metre stretch of tram track on Rashbehari Avenue, between Triangular Park and Sarat Bose Road, will also be dereserved and concretised. Before that, the track level will have to be adjusted with the road level.
'Precious road surface is lost on key roads and intersections because the tram tracks are reserved and are at a higher level. Under the present scheme, four to five metres of additional road surface would be made available to vehicles,' said a transport department official.