This morning’s tram accident occurred at 10:00 am between Ballygunge tram depot and Ballygunge Phari. While investigation reports are awaited, a first opinion points to a power outage. For those who are unaware, Calcutta’s trams have a livewire connected to overhead cables.
If any cable loses power supply, a tram comes to standstill rightaway. And today was an opportune moment for a power failure. It’s simple. It was raining. Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) has been operating since 1902. With most lines being at least 70 years old, Calcutta’s beyond repair date dual carriage trams are not just ferrying passengers, but carrying aspirations from another century onto this now.
At this point, most times commuters who absolutely must get to destination exit the tram. Usually a few arguments ensue when passengers ask for a fare reimbursement at which time conductors put on their hard hats and try to save government money, because tickets have already been handed out, and once torn it signifies fare paid. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your money. Mostly not, at which point disgruntled commuters leave the battlefield wearing a forlorn look. There will also be commuters who ain’t in a hurry to get anywhere, and will hang out until the slow tram begins its trip again. Luckily, there were none this morning.
Tram number 516 was on the Rajabajar-Garihat route (routes 26/17 for up/down) when it stopped on its track just out of the tram depot. Logical explanation points to the fact that the tram was on ‘on’ mode and the tram driver had exited, leaving his ward stranded. Once power returned, the now driverless tram began its lone journey. At Ballygunj Phari traffic signal, tram 516 ploughed on through its stop sign heading onto 20-25 cars headed their way on a green traffic light.
While it didn’t crash into every car around it, 8-9 cars were smashed in under 10 minutes, including a Maruti Suzuki dealership Celerio on test drive. Tram 516 continued its journey and was only stopped when a local lad, Dinesh Lal who saw the ghastly metal carriages in action hopped on and somehow managed to pull a stop lever. The moving death trap finally stopped in its track new ‘The Dhaba’ restaurant.
As the photos reveal, the damages could easily have been fatal. And by the luckiest streak possible, all who came face to face with terror this morning, luckily walked away unscathed with damages limited to cars involved. No doubt, panic stricken passerbys will not forget this rainy Thursday morning. We cross our fingers and shudder to think what could have been.
Photo courtesy and story input: Sourish/Meryson Photography