DELHI

The Delhi government has promised to restore a piece of the city’s past earlier this week. They plan to bring back the tram, which was removed nearly five decades ago.

A tram passes through what is now old Delhi
A tram passes through what is now old Delhi

Trams. At once the mind conjures images of the some the fanciest rides you have taken. Down the historic cable car in San Francisco, or the stunning trams in Melbourne and their cousins in Hongkong, right down to the swish, largest operating fleet in Vienna.

Well, good images, but let’s be practical. This is India. You have also seen Kolkata’s trams, right? Nowhere else in the world is such a ramshackle mode of public transport still operational. They are also the only operational tram system in India. While a number of routes have been closed due to various reasons, trams are still a very visible facet of central Kolkata.

More surprisingly, trams, introduced during the British rule over India in the 19th century, once existed in quite a few of India’s top cities.

Trams in India started their journey as horse drawn ones in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1873. The first electric tram service was started in Madras (now Chennai) in 1895. Electric trams were then introduced in Kolkata (1900), Mumbai (1907), Kanpur (1907) and Delhi (1908). Other cities that had the tram system were Patna, Nashik, Karachi (now in Pakistan) and Kochi.

Trams in Delhi operated in what is today called the ‘old’ Delhi. At its peak, there were 24 open cars running over 15 kms of track in 1921. However they kept declining, and were finally removed from service in 1963.

The state government has started preliminary work for laying of tram network. The trams are going to be operational in 3 years according to plans. The tram network will also link New Delhi Railway Station and several other localities. While nostalgia can be good, why the city needs a tram system in addition to its rail, road and excellent metro system has not been explained though.

Well, the plan to revive trams in Delhi has been discussed a number of times earlier. Till that happens, here is a quick trip down memory lane.

  • A double decker tram of the early 20th century in Mumbai

Yes, now we see how the trams might just add a touch of grandeur to Delhi’s roads!

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