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Millennium Post

The tram can run slow and win

The Calcutta tram, long considered as ailing and the archetype of the city's fabled urban decay, has found a new friend in the unlikely files of the union urban development ministry. Calcutta itself is schizophrenic about its trams, which it considers an integral part of its heritage but not something that can well fit into its aspirations as a city of the 21st century. Unable to garner funds for a total revival and unable to phase it out either, the Calcutta tram, run by the Calcutta Tram Company, has been under the weather for as long as one can remember. Some of its initiatives like running an intra-city bus service or its latest plan to run steamer services on the Ganges did not give it the required traction. The government, on its part, never took much note of the tram, since it considered it peculiar to Calcutta and that which eventually the city will be forced to send to a museum.

But now a new survey has revealed to the urban development ministry what many environmentalists had always insisted: that trams could be the ideal solution for mass transport woes of our ever burgeoning cities. 'The Institute of Urban Transport has carried out a preliminary study of the Kolkata tram and has found that trams continue to provide useful service to people,' the urban development secretary Sudhir Krishna recently told the media. The ministry is willing to look at the possibility of trams being used as feeder services for metros. Trams are very eco-friendly and cheap and, if effectively built and can solve many of India's endemic urban transport issues, not just in the bigger cities but in the medium cities too. To make a good beginning to this project, the Calcutta tram service could be revived with a joint plan by the union and the state governments as a pilot project to see if trams could be a long-term solution to our search for eco-friendly, cheap mass transport system which do not require the huge logistics, or funds of the Metro but could be equally effective. The Calcutta tram has the logistics in place. What it needs are funds, professional care and good intent. All that has to be ensured is that the trams do not damage the roads. In the meantime the Calcutta tram may see some exciting additions this autumn, prodded by the new government in the state. The CTC is mooting introduction of mobile tram cafés, encircling the picturesque Maidan area. If built with imagination and understanding of customer's needs, this initiative could well become another Calcutta landmark and provide clues to a better future for the fabled tram. Not just in this city but elsewhere too. 
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