Tram transport in India

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Tram transport in India was established by the British in the mid 19th century. Horse-drawn trams were introduced in Kolkata in 1873. Electric trams were started in Chennai in 1895. Trams were introduced in Mumbai, Nashik, Kanpur, Kochi, Patna and Bhavnagar. Trams were discontinued in most Indian cities between 1930 and 1960. Trams in Kolkata is the only operational tram system in the country.


A tram in Kolkata

Trams in Kolkata (earlier Calcutta) is a tram system in the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, India, operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC). It is currently the only operating tram network in India[1] and the oldest operating electric tram in Asia, running since 1902.[2] There are total 257 trams, of which 125 trams are running on the streets of Kolkata on a daily basis.[3] The cars are single-deck articulated cars and can carry 200 passengers (60 seated).

First horse drawn trams in India ran a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was however discontinued on 20 Nov.[4] The Calcutta Tramway Co. Ltd was formed and registered in London on 22 December 1880. Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks were laid from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square and Strand Road. The route was inaugurated by the Viceroy, Lord Ripon, on 1 November 1880.[4] In 1882, steam locomotives were deployed experimentally to haul tram cars. By the end of the nineteenth century the company owned 166 tram cars, 1000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of tram tracks.;[4] In1900, electrification of the tramway, and reconstruction of tracks to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) began.;[4] In 1902, the first electric tramcar in India ran from Esplanade to Kidderpore on 27 March, and on 14 June from Esplanade to Kalighat.

In 1960s when all of the tram systems in India closed down due to betterment of other forms of public transport, Trams in Kolkata became the only operational tram system in the country, although in a truncated form..


A double decker tram in 1937 in Mumbai

The idea of a mass public transport system for Mumbai (then Bombay) was first put forward in 1865 by an American company, which applied for a licence to operate a horse-drawn tramway system. Although a licence was granted, the project was never realised, owing to the prevailing economic depression in the city.

The Bombay Tramway Company Limited was formally set up in 1873. After a contract was entered into between the Bombay Tramway Company, the municipality and Stearns and Kitteredge company, the Bombay Presidency enacted "The Bombay Tramways Act, 1874", under which the Company was licensed to run a Horsecar tramway service in the city.[5] On 9 May 1874, the first horse-drawn carriage made its début in the city, plying on the ColabaPydhone via Crawford Market, and Bori Bunder to Pydhonie via Kalbadevi routes. The initial fare was three annas (15 paise), and no tickets were issued. As the service became increasingly popular, the fare was reduced to two annas (10 paise). Later that year, tickets were issued for the first time, to curb the increasing ticket-less travel.[6] Stearns and Kitteredge reportedly had a stable of 900 horses when tram service began.

In 1899, Bombay Tramway Company applied to the municipality, for operation of electrically operated trams. In 1904 British Electric Traction Company (England) applied for a license to supply electricity to the city. The "Brush Electrical Engineering Company" was its agent. It got "The Bombay Electric License" on 31 July 1905 signed by Bombay Tramways Company, the Bombay Municipality and the Brush Electrical Company. In 1905 "Bombay Electric Supply & Tramway Company Limited" (B.E.S.T.) was formed. The B.E.S.T. Company was granted the monopoly for electric supply and the running of an electric tram service in the city. The B.E.S.T. Company bought the assets of the Bombay Tramway Company for Rs.9,850,000.[7] Two years later in 1907, the first electric tram debuted in the city. Later that year, a 4,300 kilowatts (5,800 hp) steam power generator was commissioned at Wari Bunder. In 1916, power purchase from the Tata Power group, a privately owned company, was started and by 1925, all power generation was outsourced from Tata.[8] The passing years aggravated the problem of rush-hour traffic and to ease the situation, double decker trams were introduced in September 1920.

The trams met travellers' needs until the betterment of the train network in the city; the service closed on 31 March 1964.[9]


Trams in Nashik (then Nasik) were constructed in 1889 as 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge tram. The consulting engineer was Everard Calthrop, who later achieved renown with the Barsi Light Railway. Originally, the tramway used two carriages pulled by four horses. It originated from what is now the Old Municipal Corporation building located on Main Road, and terminated at the Nasik Road railway station (a distance of around 8–10 km). The stretch between Nashik and Nashik Road was covered with dense jungle; the only mode of transport from the station to the city was by horse-drawn carriage or one of two taxis. The tram closed down between 1931 and 1933.


Trams in Chennai (then Madras) were operated between the docks and the inland areas, carrying goods and passengers. When the system began on 7 May 1895, it was the first electric tram system in India. The original conduit system was replaced by an conventional overhead wire system after a series of destructive monsoons. The trams could carry heavy loads and were popular, with thousands of riders daily. The route encompassed Mount Road, Parry's Corner, Poonamallee Road and the Ripon Building. At its height in 1921, there were 97 cars running on 24 km of track. However, the tram company went bankrupt about 1950 and the system closed on 12 April 1953.[9]


Trams were introduced in Kanpur (then Cawnpore) in June 1907. There were 4 miles of track and 20 single-deck open trams. The four-mile single line connected the railway station with Sirsaya Ghat on the banks of the Ganges. Photographs of Cawnpore trams are very rare. The introductory stock was electric traction-type single-coach; single-coach trams were also used in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. Service was discontinued on 16 May 1933.[9]


In Kochi (then Cochin), Cochin State Forest Tramway was a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge[10][11][12] narrow gauge railway line and forest tramway running from the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary in Palakkad District to Chalakudy in Thrissur District. Operating from 1907 to 1963, it served the State of Cochin and brought prosperity by bringing Teak and Rosewood from forests which were later shipped to different locations all around the globe.[13][14]


Trams in Delhi opened on 6 March 1908. At its zenith in 1921, there were 24 open cars utilising 15 km of track. The suburbs linked were Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Katra Badiyan, Lal Kuan and Fatehpuri with Sabzi Mandi, Sadar Bazar, Paharganj, Ajmeri Gate, Bara Hindu Rao and Tis Hazari.[15] The system closed down in 1963 due to congestion.[9]


Patna had horse-drawn trams as urban transport[16] The horse-drawn tram in Patna ran in the populated stretch of Ashok Rajpath, from Patna City to Bankipore, with its western terminus at Sabzibagh (opposite Pirbahore Police Station). The tram was discontinued in 1903 due to lack of ridership; plans to extend it further west never materialised.


Bhavnagar had a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge tram built by the Bhavnagar State in India. The first section was built in 1926 from Bhavnagar south to Talaja, and then extended to Mahuva in 1938. The total length of the tramway was 67.5 miles. The tramway used small 4-8-0 locomotives, later classified as the "T" class. In 1947 the tramway was taken over by the Saurashtra Railway, and later by the Western Railway.[17] The tramway was closed down in 1960s.

Power supply[edit]

The trams were run on a direct current power supply from Overhead lines, which replaced the original conduit after a series of monsoons. The power supply was obtained by a current collector called a trolley pole, mounted on top of the tram. The track rails served as the return path for the DC current. The DC power was supplied by mercury arc rectifier (converter) stations located in various sections of cities.


Although trams have not been reintroduced in other places after their closure in all Indian cities apart from Kolkata, there have been plans to reintroduce trams in upcoming smart cities.[18] There are also plans to introduce trams in medium-sized cities[19] and plans to reintroduce trams in Delhi.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reaching India". New Delhi: Times Internet Limited. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "Kolkata trams to get a GenX makeover". 13 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Bankrupt CTC to introduce two more AC trams". The Times of India. 14 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d [1] CTC website. Accessed 16 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Growth of Mumbai & its Municipal Corporation". Quarterly journal of the Local Self Government Institute (Mumbai). 1976. p. 13. 
  6. ^ David, M. D. (1995). Mumbai, the city of dreams: a history of the first city in India. Himalaya Publishing House. pp. 199–200. 
  7. ^ "Electricity Arrives in Mumbai". BEST Undertaking. Archived from the original on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2006. 
  8. ^ "Electricity Arrives in Mumbai". BEST Undertaking. Archived from the original on 8 October 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2006. 
  9. ^ a b c d Tram views of Asia Retrieved 2011-03-16.
  10. ^ Journal on the Cochin State Forest Tramway
  11. ^ "Tramway to a trade empire". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  12. ^ "Public to get glimpses of the marvel of erstwhile tramway". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  13. ^ "Tramway to a trade empire". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  14. ^ "Public to get glimpses of the marvel of erstwhile tramway". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "First-ever book on Patna soon". The Times of India, September 23, 2008 Retrieved 2011-03-16.
  17. ^ Hughes, Hugh 1994 Indian Locomotives Pt. 3, Narrow Gauge 1863-1940. Continental Railway Circle.
  18. ^ "Trams likely to reappear in new avatar in upcoming smart cities". The Economic Times. Feb 7, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Ministry plans to introduce trams in mid-size cities". livemint. Sep 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Trams to ply on streets of Delhi again". The Economic Times. Mar 4, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Delhi to bring back a slice of history — trams". The Indian Express. March 5, 2014. 

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