After his success with the Gariahat stretch, mayor Subrata Mukherjee is now lobbying for doing away with tramcars from some major routes of central and north Calcutta. In a letter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, he is reported to have “aggressively” suggested that tram services be phased out from certain areas of the city.
“Trams have become virtually redundant in areas like Rabindra Sarani, Bidhan Sarani and M.G. Road, as they spark off major traffic snarls during peak hour,” Mukherjee said on Wednesday, adding that he had discussed the issue with the chief minister. According to him, state minister for urban development Asok Bhattacharya and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty are aware of the “menace”.
The mayor also suggested that tram-tracks from the areas be relocated with immediate effect. When contacted, transport department officials said that the government was seriously considering Mukherjee’s proposal. “The transport minister has already sent the mayor’s letter to the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) for its views. A final decision on the phase-out will be taken only after a reply from the CTC,” said an official.
Mukherjee’s move has evoked strong protest from CTC officials, who fear that the company will incur heavy losses once trams are withdrawn from the three important routes. “If operations are called off on three routes, our losses will mount to Rs 50 lakh a month,” said Sudhir De, CTC chairman-cum-managing director. “As a last resort, I have written to H.P. Roy, principal secretary, transport department, arguing that over 50,000 commuters are travelling by trams daily in the above-mentioned areas. The withdrawal of services will definitely affect them,” he added.
Desperate to counter the mayor’s claim, the company has also conducted a survey on the commuters to show that people are in favour of continuing tram services on the three routes. “There is a tremendous demand for tram services in the three routes, as passengers from Esplanade and BBD Bag can avail of these routes when heading for the north,” officials said.