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Tram derails at Maidan, hits pole

Calcutta, April 26: A BBD Bag-bound tram got derailed and hit an electricity pole at the Maidan this morning after a device that holds the wheels in place gave way, swivelling the spotlight on poor maintenance of Calcutta’s 200-strong fleet.

The driver and several of the 25 passengers were injured. Services between Esplanade and Kidderpore, and Kalighat and Tollygunge were stopped after the 11.30am accident opposite the Brigade Parade Grounds. The services resumed after 5pm.

Driver Gopesh Jha, 56, suffered an injury in his left leg. The driver’s cabin was dented and many of the passengers were thrown off their seats. The passengers suffered minor cuts and bruises.

Jha said the tram was moving at 15kmph, lower than the average speed of 25kmph. “The injuries could have been worse had the tram been travelling faster,” he added.

A senior official of the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) said an eye-bolt, which is attached to the spring that holds a tyre in place, broke and the tram derailed. “The tram hit an electricity pole,” the official added. The pole, which was between two tracks, tilted almost 45 degrees after the tram crashed into it.

Witnesses said the tram was moving smoothly but jerked suddenly and jumped off the tracks, hitting the post on its right.

CTC sources said at least one-fourth of its fleet of 200-odd trams was in bad shape because of poor maintenance. They said the trams could not be maintained because of lack of funds.

The sources said the CTC’s annual expenditure on maintenance of trams was around Rs 4 crore, much less than the Rs 7.5 crore needed for proper upkeep. According to the sources, the annual expenditure on maintenance was not enough to replace spare parts and overhaul tracks and overhead wires. “The maintenance quotient for trams is high because of high wear and tear,” the CTC official said.

The CTC has around 6,000 employees and over 800 pensioners. It spends Rs 10.5 crore a month to pay salaries and Rs 81 lakh on pensions. Ticket sales are around Rs 12 lakh a month, the sources said.

Senior CTC officials said efforts were on to streamline operations by discarding rickety trams and reducing the annual subsidy to Rs 170 crore this year from Rs 210 crore last year.