Cultural, protest events to mark 151 years of Kolkata tram

During the peak of its popularity, in the 1970s, this non-polluting mode of transport boasted over 50 routes across the city

February 20, 2024 05:51 pm | Updated 06:29 pm IST - Kolkata

Trams in Kolkata began operating on February 24, 1873.

Trams in Kolkata began operating on February 24, 1873. | Photo Credit: DEBASISH BHADURI

Fans of the iconic Kolkata tram will gather on February 24 to mark 151 years of this non-polluting mode of transport. And this being Kolkata, where the government has presided over the near-demise of the tram — only three routes are functional today — and where people raise their voice against what they think is unjust, they will regroup again on March 15 in protest.

“We had a meeting on February 13 when we decided that to celebrate the 151st birthday of the Kolkata tram, we will gather at the Gariahat depot at 10 a.m. on February 24. Notable people and dignitaries will be invited. It will be more of a cultural event than a direct protest when we will voice our demands through the dignitaries. We will also organise a special tram ride to the Esplanade depot and back,” Debasish Bhattacharyya, president of the Calcutta Tram Users’ Association (CTUA), which is organising the event, said.

Watch | How Kolkata celebrated 150 years of trams

“On March 15 afternoon, a street corner meeting will be held at the Esplanade. This will be a pure protest gathering in association with other organisations,” Dr. Bhattacharyya said.

The Kolkata tram dates back to 1873 when a horse-drawn car ran from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat Street, a distance of about 4 km. During the peak of its popularity, in the 1970s, this mode of transport boasted over 50 routes across the city. The past two decades alone saw a sharp dip in the number of trams, and at present only three routes are functional: Tollygunge to Ballygunge (and everse); Gariahat to Esplanade (and reverse); and Esplanade to Shyambazar (and reverse).

“It’s the need of the hour to transform Kolkata’s central landscape with the revival of trams, and creating walkable streets and cycling lanes — basically building a city that breathes and moves with sustainable vitality. This way, we can also set an example for other cities,” Arghyadip Hatua, urban policy advisor and a member of the 2016-founded CTUA, said.

“The tram is more than just a relic from the past; it’s a living legend,” asserted filmmaker Mahadeb Shi, general secretary of CTUA. “I don’t know how many systems worldwide made it through 15 decades. Eminent personalities from Kolkata will be joining us for this special ride; and as many of them have grown up riding trams, we would want them to share their priceless memories with our children, who need to know the value of the tram. It’s terrible that we are considering getting rid of it, that too at a time when we are becoming more aware of the necessity to stop abusing Mother Nature.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.