The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sunset boulevard for streetcar

Speed is the new slogan at go-slow Writers’ Buildings. With fast becoming the proclaimed way forward, it’s time for trams to restrict their run to the outskirts and a precious few heritage routes in town.

With chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee insisting that the city hit the fast lane, the Left Front government has finally decided to remove tram routes from the city centre.

The transport department is in the process of drafting a comprehensive plan to realign tram tracks after getting a green signal from the chief minister.

“We have decided to relocate trams by withdrawing some routes from the heart of the city and relaying the tracks on the outskirts. Though we had made such efforts earlier, they did not materialise,” said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

“The rapid rise in automobile population, shortage of roadspace and growing city-centric activities have forced us to relocate trams and introduce modern modes of movement,’’ he added.

So, the plan is to get Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) to run more Euro II-compliant buses.

According to a detailed plan to be finalised soon, tram tracks will be dismantled from three thoroughfares — BB Ganguly Street, Bidhan Sarani and Rabindra Sarani. Tracks along Rashbehari Avenue, CIT Road, APC Road and Maniktala Main Road will be dereserved and thoroughly repaired, at an estimated cost of Rs 20 crore, in order to provide more space for vehicles.

Later, in a phased manner, all tram tracks from the city proper will be dismantled.

One motivating factor behind the move is the refusal of mayor Subrata Mukherjee to repair roads with tram tracks.

Mukherjee has informed transport minister Chakraborty that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) would not take the responsibility for repairing the roads where trams ply.

The state government, on its part, has made it clear that it will no longer provide subsidies to the CTC.

Every time the government has targeted trams as culprits for slowing down traffic, the CPM’s labour arm has raised a ruckus. This time, however, Citu has relented to the realignment.

Assurances from the transport minister that employees would be shifted from the tram to the bus sector have, apparently, pacified Citu protests.

Rajdeo Goala, a Citu leader and CTC chairman, said: “We had to review the issue of plying of trams in the city because of the needs of the people. Nearly 300 trams run daily on 29 routes, but carry only a few hundred passengers. One tram, on average, serves 15 to 20 passengers daily. We incur huge losses.”

Trams occupy a large chunk of roadspace and often cause traffic congestion.

“Given these facts, is it wise to continue the service in the city'’’ demanded Chakraborty, conceding that the only advantage of the streetcars lay in their eco-friendly nature.

Transport department officials said 10 trams plying in any route during the day create hurdles for speedy movement of hundreds of other vehicles.

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