To increase the appeal of using electrified trams as the choice mode of transport among students in Kolkata, the city is introducing India’s first tram library in College Street. To further increase the appeal of tram ridership to a wider demographic, Kolkata has also launched library tramcars catered towards younger children and has converted some trams into mobile art galleries.

What is it?

It is the first tram library in India. Kolkata has been the first city in India to establish many innovations. To add to their list of feats, the city is now the first to introduce a tram library in the iconic area of College Street. It is said that if a book doesn’t exist in College Street, it was never published.  

College Street is the academic district of Kolkata. The area around the street is home to the most iconic educational institutions. The Wi-Fi-enabled tram library was launched with the aim to attract more students into using trams as their default mode of transport, provide access to educational material, and to reinvigorate the love for reading.

Since COVID-19, which led to the suspension of tram services, and Cyclone Amphan in May, which grounded the trams, four out of six tram routes have resumed services. The tram library was launched on 24 September 2020, when the iconic Shyambazar-Esplanade route that passes by the academic institutions resumed. The route coincides with 30 educational institutions on College Street. 

“The idea is to catapult the tram as the chosen mode for Kolkata students again,” said Rajanvir Singh Kapur, Managing Director of WBTC. 

Introduced by the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), the corporation that oversees India’s only functional tramways, the Tram Library is a special tram with a section for books, magazines, and various exam material. The books are updated regularly. The tram also has free Wi-Fi, allowing passengers to access e-books on top of the books in the library. With access to both physical and e-books, youth can spend their travel time productively. 

There are plans to host literature festivals and book launches in the tram libraries in the future, which will increase the appeal of using the trams as their preferred transport. 

As a part of the campaign to celebrate the inauguration of the Tram Library, free pens were also given on all ticket purchases in the first week. 

Prior to the launch, WBTC installed art in some trams which depict how the trams began in 1873 and got electrified in 1900. Since 1902, the electric tramcars have operated in Kolkata and they are the oldest running electric tram system in Asia. 

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, trams and depots will be properly and regularly disinfected and sanitised to maintain the safety of passengers.

Young readers’ tramcar

To increase the appeal of the ridership to younger children and encourage reading amongst them, Kolkata also launched the world’s first Library on Tram dedicated to children on the 14th November 2020. Dubbed the Kolkata Young Readers’ Tramcar, the project is an initiative by the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) and Apeejay Anand Children’s Library that aims to give children across all age groups access to books and to encourage reading amongst the younger children while traveling.  

To ensure suitable content for children, the WBTC collaborated with Oxford Bookstores to curate a unique selection of titles and literature for various children age groups for the Kolkata Young Readers’ Tram Car. The tram libraries are also decorated with artwork of children hand-painted by local artists, adding to the charm of the city’s tram transport. 

The Kolkata Young Readers’ Tram Car was launched virtually by Mr. Rajanvir Singh Kapur, MD, West Bengal Transport Corporation, and Ms. Priti Paul, Director Apeejay Surrendra Group. 

Art gallery on wheels

Celebrating the artistic spirit of the city, WBTC has launched a Tram Art Gallery in the first week of December, displaying art from many iconic artists from Bengal. The Tram Art Gallery has been modified such that the interiors are modelled to easily display easels and paintings.

On days when the tram is booked by artists, people can enjoy the paintings as the tram runs along its route. On days when there are no bookings, WBTC will be displaying a collection of old archival tram photos and works of trams so that the tram continues to run daily. 

The aim of the Tram Art Gallery is to make art exhibitions accessible to all, especially to students. 

Artists who book the trams to display their work are charged per day, but there are concessions of up to 50% if the artists are students or from charitable organisations. This aims to promote the appeal of trams and art to the youth. 

The tram system in Kolkata runs on Shyambazar Esplanade and Esplanade Gariahat routes spanning from North to South of Kolkata. The Kolkata tramways have been in operation since 1873 and the WBTC has recently made multiple efforts to increase the appeal of electric trams to make it a choice mode of transport in Kolkata. 

CO2 reduction

Increasing the ridership of electric trams instead of private transport will reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and in turn, contribute to reducing emissions from private transport. 

Next steps

There are plans to host more literary events in the trams in the future. There are plans to conduct activities such as storytelling, dramatised readings, poetry sessions, book launches, and music. These activities conducted throughout the year aim to increase the appeal of travelling by trams as opposed to using private transport.

  • Environmental
  • Social
September, 2020
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