Decades ago, the Kalighat depot used to be one of the busiest in Kolkata. Trams would ply on three routes covering about 16 km. But, the road patches were ripped away as they made way for cars and buses.
Asia’s oldest functional tram service, The Calcutta Tramways Corporation, gradually became loss making, eventually turning into a huge burden on the state.
It launched a bus service a couple of years back, but cash-strapped CTC could not rise; the service had only added to the company’s financial liabilities.
Now, CTC plans to explore the water route in search of a turnaround, reported Business Standard today.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in an effort to popularise ferry services on the Ganges has chalked out a plan with CTC, wherein ferry services will be made available between Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas and Babu Ghat in Kolkata.
In the new ferry proposal, CTC has stated an initial requirement of eight 60-seater speedboats, including two air-conditioned ones. The transport corporation is also considering roping in private partners for the venture.
According to the state transport department, though CTC earns about Rs 50 crore a year from its tram and bus services, it spends a lot more on salaries to its workforce of about 6,500.
Currently, CTC operates 125 trams in Kolkata, carrying about 15,000 passengers daily. It also runs 240 buses in the city and its suburban areas, accounting for about 50,000 passengers daily.
Kolkata remains the only city in the country that has a surviving tram transport system, while cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Patna, Kanpur, Chennai and Nashik have done away with it long back.
But not just ferry services, this Puja, you might get a new dining destination. CTC has also decided to roll out four ‘mobile cafeterias’ — cafes on trams — in a bid to halt the downhill slide of this heritage mode of transport, reported the Times of India.
Meanwhile, CTC wants to generate revenue through alternative means like running more buses on profitable routes and having an on-board ticket checking system. There are also plans to introduce AC trams and buses and turn underutilised tram depots into parking lots.
But will the ferry service, the AC trams or the cafeteria in trams be able to save Kolkata’s heritage?