It might have fallen on bad days, but that cannot dampen the spirit of the centuries’ old Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) and its zest to recover its pristine glory. The company, which now plies trams on merely 56 km of tracks in select stretches of the city, is trying to acquire the Unesco’s World Heritage tag.
If its wish is granted, the label will allow the CTC to run tram services much more smoothly and help the government to promote ‘heritage tram journeys’ to foreign as well as domestic tourists.
The CTC is reeling under a crushing burden of mounting losses with little scope to boost its earnings in a significant way. The UNESCO recognition cannot come at a better time for the company which is running trams in this city for over two centuries.
Significantly, Kolkata is now the only Indian city to have trams — a mode of transport that has regained currency worldwide because of its ecofriendly nature.
“Trams now ply in 300 cities across all five continents, including London, Paris, Prague, Havana and Seoul,” CTC’s managing director, Nilanjan Sandilya, told HT.
“I am trying my best to achieve the world heritage tag. It is a long cherished objective. If we are successful, future generations will rightly be proud of this unique transport system of our city,” he said.
Citing the recent example of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly called Toy Train, which has acquired the UNESCO World Heritage tag, Sandilya said, “Trams or light street cars are staging a comeback worldwide.” An internal survey by CTC experts has shown that there is a tremendous amount of potential for quick commercial success.
“Not only is the cost of laying tracks per kilometer almost onefifth of that of Metro Railway, the operational cost, too, is most competitive with a lower fuel price,” the CTC chief said. The company, which employs around 5,000 people, is making an aggressive bid for the introduction and expansion of tramways in areas such as Salt Lake and Rajarhat-New Town soon.
Sandilya also slammed attempts by some “so-called experts” who are lobbying for abolition of tram services from the city on grounds like traffic congestion. “Even bustling cities like London and Paris have and are expanding tramways,” Sandilya said.
Hailing the CTC’s initiative, prominent environmental activist Subhas Dutta assured mobilisation of public support “to save our dearest eco-friendly ‘sundari trams’ from pollution-rogues”. “The CTC’s bid to get Unesco recognition merits universal support,” he said.