Tram route back on track after 7 years

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By BIBHASH LODH
  • Published 18.10.13
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The tram service from Kalighat to Esplanade (Route 29) was to resume after seven long years on Sashthi, the CTC had proudly announced. And transport minister Madan Mitra arrived at the Kalighat tram depot at 11.40am on October 10.

The rainbow-coloured tram with large transparent fibre panels for windows was already waiting in the depot, decked out with flowers in anticipation of the big day. Another photographer like myself, and a television crew were there to record the streetcar’s first day out in a long time. This is the only city where tram services still exist, neglected and marginalised though it is.

Apart from Madan Mitra, Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay, the Rashbehari MLA, and the CTC chairman Shantilal Jain were there. Mitra said in the near future, services on the Tollygunge-Esplanade and Ballygunge-Esplanade route will be resumed. The route was Kalighat to Hazra, from there to Mominpore and Kidderpore and Esplanade via Maidan. The last is the most picturesque tram route anywhere, particularly after the rains when what is known as the lungs of the city becomes a carpet of emerald green.

The stretch along Hazra Road and then Gopalnagar Road was relatively free of traffic, and the tram trundled across the Kalighat bridge over Adi Ganga, past the Alipore Central jail and the junk shops of Gopalnagar without much ado. Some drummers (dhakis) were sitting on the pavement waiting to be hired near Kalighat. Madan Mitra and his entourage had boarded the tram at the depot, but they got off even before the tram had rolled out of the terminus. But the tram was far from empty as passengers — mostly Puja revellers in Sashthi finery — boarded the coach soon afterwards. Most of them were youngsters and they were very enthusiastic about the ride.

However, on Diamond Harbour Road, the tram ground to a halt. A Maruti Swift was parked on the tramline that wended past the St. Thomas’ school gate. The tram driver impatiently jangled the bell in his cabin but the car was immobile. The driver was absent. Passengers became restive and began cursing the car owner. At the end of his tether, the conductor called a traffic constable who was close by. He summoned the owner of the car who was in a nearby medicine shop. He drove the car away, and the tram jolted back to life.

More passengers got in at the Kidderpore crossing. These were mostly people going to work and were thankful the tram had arrived. This stretch too was not crowded, and the tram speeded past the race course. We reached the Esplanade tram depot very soon.

But not everyone is happy with the sudden resumption of the service. City-based expert Debasish Bhattacharya said the service could have resumed long ago as the route had been concreted long ago, and the drainage problems were only minor. “This was just a lame excuse to stop the service. The closure was intentional.”