At Kolkata ride, British diplomat shares London tram revival tales
Times of India | 21 November 2023
Kolkata: The British Deputy High Commission shared its London experience of the complete abolition of the tram by 1952 and its reintroduction in 2000 due to the sharp increase in number of automobiles and resultant congestion and pollution to draw a parallel with trams in Kolkata.
British deputy high commissioner to East and Northeast India, Andrew Fleming, was visibly excited to hop onto the tram, a true forefather of the modern London tram of today.“I am not very old in the city and am very excited to experience the tram ride here and have an adda on the tram.” The adda was joined by Bengal’s transport secretary Saumitra Mohan and West Bengal Pollution Control Board chairman Kalyan Rudra.
Fleming will share his experience during a session at the two-day Bengal Global Business Summit that will start on Tuesday.
“What the town planners, civic authority and bureaucrats say now to abolish trams in Kolkata, used to be told by the same set of people in London about the ‘old fashioned’ tram system of the city way back in the 1950s, resulting in phasing out of trams to create more room for buses and cars. It was thought that everyone could get around faster by getting rid of trams and replacing them with diesel buses. But the opposite happened and travel time actually increased along with pollution and congestion,” said Kankana Das of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), who closely studied both the tramway systems.
Trams were re-introduced in London in 2000, originally run by Tramlink but now owned by TfL. In June 2008, TfL bought out TCL, and set about refurbishing trams, tracks and tram stops, which had received little investment since the system opened. In June 2012, six new trams were introduced, enabling services in central Croydon to be increased from eight to 12 trams an hour.
“We are none to say how to revive the system here. It will be the duty of the authority here to script its revival. But, we can share our expertise with them. We have industrial support to offer,” said Fleming.