Celebrating People

Meet The Man Trying To Save Kolkata's Historic Trams

Trams were once celebrated as Kolkata's lifeline but they are gradually fading into the background of the city. We spoke to Debasish Bhattacharyya, the President of Calcutta Tramways Users Association, about their legacy and the need for trams

A tram on a city road with colonial-era office buildings in the background of the Esplanade area of Kolkata Photo: Shutterstock

The trams of Kolkata are one of the oldest transportation systems in Asia and have been operating since the late 19th century. The British introduced the tram in several key cities of India such as Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai to boost urban passenger transport. In time the trams became one of the pillars of Kolkata's transportation system, and were witnesses to many historic events in the City of Joy. For example, during the Second World War the British did not dare to formally open the Howrah Bridge in 1943 for fear of an attack. A solitary tram was the first vehicle to cross the bridge in the darkness across the world's third-longest cantilever bridge on 3 February 1943. Ten years later a one-paisa hike in tram fare gave the Leftist parties of Kolkata a solid base with which to launch their agitation and gain a foothold in Bengal politics.