While passing through the academic district of the city, the tram aims to promote the habit of reading books and newspapers – which is under threat from visual media – among students, teachers and general public. “It is a tribute to the city’s most vibrant academic and iconic book district from another icon of the city – the tram,” said a senior official of WBTC.
The tram library will run from Esplanade to Shyambazar, a route which has over 30 schools, colleges and universities apart from the city’s biggest book hub at College Street. A single-bogey tram car has been transformed to serve as a library on wheels. The tram car will also be used for the literary festivals in November, apart from book launches and book reading sessions.
It will have books and newspapers for on-board reading, free WiFi, free pens for all passengers during the inaugural week. “Trams have been serving the city for more than 100 years. While thinking of the tram’s role in the city’s cultural ethos, we realized how the iconic College Street would seem a little dull without these moving along it. Many intellectual movements, which might have originated in the Coffee House, continued in the trams,” said an officer.
“We want to promote the tram among Kolkata’s students, teachers, booklovers and intellectuals again,” said Rajanvir Singh Kapur, managing director, WBTC, that operates the Kolkata Tramways – the oldest surviving tramway in the Asia-Pacific region .
Initially, readers will find books related to various competitive examinations. The list will be updated regularly according to the requirements.
Significantly, the launch of the library will coincide with the resumption of Esplanade-Shyambazar tram route. After the catastrophic impact of Cyclone Amphan, four tram routes, out of six that operated before the pandemic, started functioning. Regular disinfection and sanitization of the tram cars and depots before and after each shift of operation is being undertaken.
Recently, WBTC installed some artworks in some of the trams, which depict the beginning of the tram services in 1873 and then the electrification of the cars in 1900. Since 1902, the electric tram cars have been running in the city of joy.