Trams in Kolkata

The tram system in the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, India, operated by West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) after Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) was dissolved, is the only tram network operating in India.[5] Started in 1902, it is the second oldest electric tramway in India (the Madras electric street tramway being the first).[6][7]

Trams in Kolkata
OwnerWB Government
Transit typeTram
Number of lines6 in operation[1]
Daily ridership15,000 daily[2]
Began operation1873[3]
Reporting marksCTC • WBTC
Number of vehicles257 trams (35 in operation)[4]
System length28 km
Track gaugeStandard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)[3]
Electrification550 V DC Overhead line
System map

Kolkata transport map.svg

The network initially had up to 37 lines in the 1960s[8] but has gradually reduced over the years with only six lines currently operating due to financial struggles, poor maintenance, low ridership, addition of road flyovers, expansion of the Kolkata Metro, slow tram speed and perceptions that the trams are outdated and occupy too much road space. Due to these issues, there have been occasional talks of either shutting down the network permanently or limiting the operations of the system. However, the system is also considered environmentally friendly and an icon of Kolkata, so there have also been recent efforts to sustain the system with newer trams.


1873–1901: Horse-drawn tramsEdit

Life-size model of a horse-drawn tram at the City Centre arcade, Salt Lake

The first horse-drawn trams in India ran for 2.4 miles (3.9 km) between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on 24 February 1873. The service was discontinued on 20 November of that year.[3] The Calcutta Tramway Company 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.[3] In 1882, steam locomotives were deployed experimentally to haul tram cars. By the end of the century, the company owned 166 tram cars, 1,000 horses, seven steam locomotives and 19 miles of track.[3]

1900–1951: Electric tramsEdit

A Calcutta tram
A tram in 1945

In 1900, the electrification of the tramway and conversion of its tracks to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) began.[3] The first electric tramcar in Calcutta ran from Esplanade to Kidderpore on 27 March 1902, with service from Esplanade to Kalighat introduced on 14 June of that year. The Kalighat line was extended to Tollygunge, the Esplanade line to Belgachia (via Bidhan Sarani, Shyambazar), and the Esplanade to Sealdah route (via Binay Badal Dinesh Bag, Rajib Gandhi Sarani and present-day Mahatma Gandhi Road) opened the following year. In 1904, the Esplanade to Bagbazar route through College Street opened. In June 1905, the Howrah Station to Bandhaghat route opened and the electrification project was completed.[3] In 1906, the Bowbazar Junction to Binay Badal Dinesh Bag and the Ahiritola Junction to Hatibagan Junction routes opened.

Two years later, lines to Shibpur via G.T. Road were laid and the Esplanade to Sealdah station (via Moula Ali Junction), Moula Ali Junction to Nonapukur, Wattganj Junction to Jatin Das Park Junction (via Alipur) and Mominpur Junction to Behala routes opened. The Sealdah Station to Rajabazar route opened in 1910. In 1915, the Mirzapur Junction to Bowbazar Junction and Sealdah Station to Lebutala Junction routes opened. Five years later, the Strand Road Junction to High Court route opened. In 1923, the S. C. Mallik Square Junction to Park Circus route (via Royd Street, Nonapukur) opened. The Kalighat to Ballygunge route opened in 1928. In 1930, the Park Circus line was extended to Garhiahat Junction. The Rajabazar line was extended to Galiff Street in 1941. In February 1943, the Calcutta and Howrah sections were connected by the new Howrah Bridge. With this extension, total track length reached 42.0 miles (67.59 km).[3]

1951–1990: NationalisationEdit

In 1951, the government of West Bengal entered an agreement with the Calcutta Tramways Company and the Calcutta Tramways Act of 1951 was enacted. The government assumed the tramways, reserving the right to purchase the system with two years' notice on 1 January 1972 or at any time thereafter.[3] In 1967, the Government of West Bengal passed the Calcutta Tramways Company (Taking Over of Management) Act and assumed management on 19 July. On 8 November 1976, the Calcutta Tramways (Acquisition of Undertaking) ordinance was promulgated under which the company (and its assets) was nationalised.[3] The Howrah sections were closed in October 1970; the 1971–1973 Nimtala route was closed in May 1973, and the Howrah Station terminus was realigned. Total track length was now reduced to 38 miles (61.2 km).[3]

In 1980, the routes on Bentinck Street and Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay Road closed for construction of the Kolkata metro and were not reopened. Two years later, the Sealdah Station terminus and the Sealdah–Lebutala route on Bipin Bihari Ganguli Street closed for the construction of an overpass; the site is now occupied by Sealdah Court and a bus terminal. On 17 April 1985, tracks were extended 3.7 km (2.30 mi) from Maniktala to Ultadanga via Maniktala Main road and C. I. T. Road.[3] On 31 December 1986, the route extension from Behala to Joka was completed.[3]

1990–present: Later developmentsEdit

Tram Museum (Smaranika) in Esplanade Tram Terminus

Calcutta Tramways Company introduced bus service on 4 November 1992 with a fleet of 40 buses.[3] The Howrah Station terminus closed and the tram tracks were removed on Howrah Bridge the following year, since the cantilever bridge was not strong enough for trams. The routes which terminated there were moved to the Burrabazar (Howrah Bridge) terminus (formerly Burrabazar Junction).

The system had degraded by the 1990s, and Minister for Transport Shyamal Chakraborty planned to close the network. However, Melbourne tram conductor Roberto D'Andrea befriended fellow Calcutta conductors during a 1994 visit. When D'Andrea heard about the planned network closure, he suggested an art project to decorate the trams (as was done in his home city). The project increased public awareness of the network and its value, ultimately saving it.[9]

In 1995, the High Court terminus closed for the reconstruction of Strand Road. Rails and wires were removed from there and from Strand Road, Hare Street and Shahid Khudiram Basu Road and it is now the site of the newest Kolkata High Court building. In 2004, the Gariahat Depot–Gariahat Junction link on Gariahat Road closed for construction of the Gariahat overpass.[10] Two years later, the Mominpur–Behala route on Diamond Harbour Road closed for the construction of an overpass in Taratala. Although it was initially planned to route tracks on the overpass after its completion, the road was later converted to a national highway and the plan was dismissed. The Wattgunge Junction–Mominpur (Diamond Harbour Road), Mominpur–Jatin Das Park (Judges Court Road) and the Jatin Das Park–Kalighat/Rasbehari (Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Road) routes were temporarily closed for reconstruction in 2007 and the Galiff Street Terminus was realigned the following year. Irregular service from Bagbazar to Galiff Street became regular service with Route 12/7. Rails and overhead lines were removed from part of the Bidhan Sarani route and restored by the end of 2008.

In 2009, tracks on R.G. Kar Road from the Shyambazar five-point crossing to the Belgachia Depot closed for reconstruction. The Behala-Joka route and the Behala Depot and the Joka Depot closed for construction of the Joka-BBD Bag metro project two years later and the Kalighat/Rashbehari-Ballygunge Station route closed for reconstruction. The Lalbazar-Mirjapur down line was closed, but the up line remained. The Behala–Joka route and the Behala Terminus, the Joka Terminus and the Bagbazar Terminus were permanently closed in 2012. In 2013, 'Charoibeti' and 'Rupasi Bangla', two AC trams, were manufactured at the Nonapukur workshop for heritage tours only.[11] A regular AC tram route would not start until 6 years later. On 30 September 2014, a tram, converted into a museum (Smaranika) in Esplanade, was opened to the public.[12] The Park Circus Depot closed for construction of the Maa Flyover in 2015 and the Nonapukur Depot reopened; the Gariahat Depot remained. The following year, the Ballygunge Station Depot next to Gariahat Mall also reopened and thus Kalighat/Rashbehari-Ballygunge Station stretch (via Gariahat) became active after 12 years.

After the starting of the East-West Metro works in 2017, all the BBD Bag bound tram routes have been closed for an indefinite time. Thus tram-plying along Sealdah (Purabi Cinema) Junction-Bowbazar Junction-Lalbazar Junction-BBD Bag, Galiff Street-Sovabazar Junction-Chitpur Junction-Lalbazar Junction and Hatibagan Junction-Sovabazar Junction stretches has been stopped. The Wattgunge junction to Kalighat/Rashbehari Junction stretch has also been closed for an indefinite time since 2018, due to the Majherhat Bridge collapse and thus Tollygunge to Ballygunge Station bound tram route becomes an isolated one. Belgachia tram depot also has been shut down for an indefinite time and thus tram-plying along Maniktala Junction-Shyambazar Junction-Belgachia and Shyambazar Tram Depot-Shyambazar Junction stretches is closed since 2018.[13] In 2019, first A.C. tram route (AC-1) of Kolkata starts which runs between Esplanade and Shyambazar.[11] The state government decided to stop tram-plying on the age-old Sealdah Flyover (Vidyapati Setu), after the survey of the bridge-advisory committee officers in 2019 and thus tram-plying along the Sealdah (Jagat Cinema) Junction-Sealdah (Chhobighar Cinema) Junction-Moulali Junction-Nonapukur Junction, Sealdah (Purabi Cinema) Junction-Sealdah (Chhobighar Cinema) Junction and Moulali Junction-Wellington Junction stretches has also been stopped.[14][15] State Government also decided to shut down tram-plying on Belgachia Bridge permanently due to the excessive load on the bridge.[16]

Rolling stockEdit

CTC owns 257 trams, of which 125 used to run daily.[4] Each single-deck articulated car can carry 200 passengers (60 seated). But the number of trams is decreasing sharply due to various reasons and now only 35 trams run daily.

The early horse-drawn cars and steel cars manufactured before 1952 were imported from England. Early trams were single-coach, similar to those in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kanpur. Triple-coach trams were tried without success. The later stock was the SLT type: double-coach with three doors, four wheels under each coach and no wheels between coaches. SLT trams had no front iron net but had a front-coach trolley pole. The both-end type had a front iron net and a rear-coach trolley pole. These were gradually replaced by articulated trams on all routes. The SLC type was introduced much later on the Bandhaghat line, and continued until its closure in 1971; after that, SLC trams began running on the G/H and T/G lines on the Kolkata side.

Two trams were recently renovated with front and back glass, fluorescent lights, FM radio, digital display boards, angled seats and a fibreglass ceiling. The Nonapukur workshop began manufacturing 19 new trams from 2008 to 2010, of which four are nearing completion. The roof is clear polycarbonate sheeting with a wide window, and it has comfortable seating and better visibility from within. The workshop is also renovating steel-body (BSCL) cars. With plans for banquet-cafeteria[17] and air-conditioned trams to attract commuters and foreign tourists (increasing CTC revenue), a single-coach, air-conditioned banquet tram has been introduced for heritage tours of North Kolkata in the morning and South Kolkata in the evening.[18] Although the air-conditioned tram had poor ridership when it was introduced,[19] more air-conditioned trams have since been introduced.[4] These include a tram restaurant (Victoria)[20] and the worlds first shopping (glam) tram[21] and library tram.[22]

Types of rolling stock are:

SLC tram in 2009
  • Old SLC – The first double-coach tram with wheels between the coaches, manufactured at the Nonapukur workshop. Sometimes called an "elephant car" by the CTC, its cab and rear are narrow and slightly slanted forward (like the head of an elephant, without the trunk). It was introduced as a higher-speed tram with an improved engine, designed to run on express routes such as Galiff Street, Ballyganj, Tollyganj, Behala and Khidirpur. Longer than an articulated tram, it was the first tram with a cab door.
  • SLC – This variant has a pivot; less stylish than articulated trams, it is also manufactured at Nonapukur. Its front and back are straight. Also introduced as a higher-speed tram with an improved engine, it was designed to run on express routes but later had more general use.
Articulated tram
  • Articulated SLC – This is a slightly-less-stylish variation of the articulated tram, which is also manufactured at Nonapukur. Its front and back overhang, and narrow towards the ends. Also with an improved engine, it was used on local and express routes.
  • Renovated SLC – After many years of SLC and articulated trams, rolling stock arrived from Burn Standard India which is stronger, heavier and faster than earlier designs and reversed the declining public perception of trams in the city. The improved stock began running throughout the city on all routes. Some were modified with front glass; two were modified to resemble Melbourne's B-class trams with fluorescent lights, back glass and double ends.
  • New cars – Before the introduction of the single-coach tram in December 2012, this was the last new rolling stock. Built by Jessop India, it is a variation of the pivot type and was introduced around 1984. Some were modified with front glass; one was modified with fluorescent lights, FM radio, digital advertising and route boards.
  • Single-coach – Introduced on 24 December 2012, they are reportedly faster and more manoeuvrable than double-coach trams; the carriage is longer than those in double-coach trams.[23] More single-coach trams are planned across the city (including air-conditioned coaches), possibly replacing double-coach trams and enabling some closed routes to reopen.[24]

Power supplyEdit

The trams have a direct current power supply from overhead lines. Power is obtained from a trolley pole, a current collector mounted on top of the tram. The track rails are the return path for the current. DC power is supplied by mercury-arc rectifier (converter) stations, located throughout the city.


A tram depot cum workshop is located at Nonapukur, where trams are refurbished and modernised.[25]

Inside Nonapukur Depot


  • Kalighat – 1881 to still running, tram depot. (Route 30, 31)
  • Khidirpur – 1883 to still running, now tram & bus depot. (Route 36)
  • Belgachhia – 1903 to 2019 = 116 years, now bus depot. (Route 1, 2, 3, 4, 11)
  • Tollygunge – 1903 to still running, now tram & bus depot. (Route 29, 32)
  • Ghasbagan – 1908 to 1971 = 63 years, now bus depot. (Route 41)
  • Rajabazar – 1910 to still running, now tram & bus depot. (Route 14)
  • Park Circus – 1925, temporarily suspended as tram depot (?), working as bus depot. (Route 20, 21, 22)
  • Gariahat – 1943 to still running, now tram & bus depot. (No specific route originally)


Route no. Description Destination via Total km
5 ShyambazarEsplanade Hatibagan, Bidhan Sarani, Vidyasagar College, College Street, Nirmal Chandra Street, Wellington, Lenin Sarani 5.50[1]
11 ShyambazarHowrah Bridge Hatibagan, Bidhan Sarani, College Street, MG Road 5.50[1]
18 Bidhan Nagar RoadHowrah Bridge (Short trips from Rajabazar to Howrah Bridge and Rajabazar to Bidhan Nagar Road) Kankurgachi, Maniktala, Rajabazar, Sealdah, College Street, MG Road 7.50[1]
24/29 TollygungeBallygunge Station Deshapran Sashmal Road, Rashbehari, Gariahat 5.50[1]
25 Gariahat (Short trip up to Nonapukur)Esplanade Ballygunge Phari, Beckbagan, Park Circus, Mullickbazar, Nonapukur, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Wellington, Lenin Sarani 6.00[1]
36 KhidirpurEsplanade Karl Marx Sarani, Khidirpur Road, Maidan, Dufferin Road 5.00[1]


On 3 December 2012, a seven-year-old was killed by a tram entering the Ultadanga depot. The boy was reportedly playing near the tracks when the tram approached and it struck him before the brakes could be fully applied.[26]

A bus driver attempted to overtake a tram on 31 January 2013. The rear of the bus grazed the tram, amputating a bus passenger's arm. The man was rushed to the hospital for his arm to be reattached.[27]

On 19 June 2014, a driverless tram struck 10 cars. No fatalities or injuries were reported.[28]

In popular cultureEdit

Few movies were shot in tram and its depots:[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Tram Routes – CTC".
  2. ^ "Kolkata's famed trams slowly drive into history". The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "History – CTC". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Bankrupt CTC to introduce two more AC trams". The Times of India. 14 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Reaching India". New Delhi: Times Internet Limited. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Kolkata trams to get a GenX makeover". 13 July 2012.
  7. ^ The Madras tercentenary commemoration volume. Asian Educational Services. 1994. p. 222. ISBN 8120605373.
  8. ^ "Kolkata's historic trams trundle once more". The Hindu. The Hindi. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  9. ^ "How a Melbourne conductor helped save Kolkata's trams". 6 October 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Kolkata's iconic tram gets a cool makeover". 5 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Calcutta Tramways Company inaugurates museum on wheels". 30 September 2014.
  13. ^ Mar 9, Zeeshan Javed | TNN | Updated; 2019; Ist, 22:25. "Glimmer of hope for trams in Kolkata | Kolkata News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 July 2019.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "Sealdah bridge to get rid of age-old tram lines and heavy vehicles | Kolkata News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  15. ^ "শিয়ালদা ব্রিজে চিরতরে বন্ধ হতে চলেছে ট্রাম চলাচল". বিশ্ব বাংলা সংবাদ. 11 September 2019.
  16. ^ MP, Team (24 October 2019). "PWD set to remove tram tracks from Belgachia bridge".
  17. ^ "Kolkata to get banquet and cafeteria trams". Daily News. 12 February 2013.
  18. ^ "Enjoy Kolkata's heritage with an AC tram ride". The Economic Times. 18 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Kolkata's modernised heritage trams fail to woo passengers". India Today. 24 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Dining in Kolkata in a tramcar named 'Victoria'". The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Durga Puja 2018: Kolkata gets world's first 'Glam Tram' fashion store on wheels". Deccan Chronicle. Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  22. ^ "In a first, Kolkata to get tram library". The Indian Express. The Indian Express. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  23. ^ "City's new public ride arrives on Christmas Eve". hindustan times. 23 December 2012.
  24. ^ "More single-coach trams to run on various streets in Kolkata soon". RailNews. 26 March 2013.
  25. ^ a b বসুমল্লিক, গৌতম (10 July 2020). "আত্মনির্ভর ট্রাম, বিজলি পথের গল্প". EiSamay Gold (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Tram runs over 7-year-old". The Times of India. 3 December 2012.
  27. ^ "'Passenger's arm ripped off as bus races tram in Kolkata". The Times of India. 31 January 2013.
  28. ^ "'Ghost tram' rams into 10 cars in Kolkata". The Times of India. 20 June 2014.


External linksEdit