Transport in Kolkata
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The transport system of Kolkata is a mix of modern mass rapid transport and the old transport modalities like the rickshaws. Kolkata is connected to the rest of India by the National Highways, the extensive network of the Indian Railways, and also by air. Most traffic to North-East India routes via Kolkata.
Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu are two bridges connecting Kolkata with Howrah over the Ganges. Vivekananda Setu is the third bridge over the river at the northern reach of the city near Dakshineshwar from Howrah. The fourth one and the newest one is Nivedita Setu. Since Kolkata suffers from traffic congestion like other Indian cities, a network of expressways like Kona Expressway and Belghoria Expressway, flyovers and widening of southern stretch of Eastern Metropolitan Bypass are being created to ease up road traffic.
Kolkata is connected to other parts of India by the National Highways 2, 6, 34 and 117. The Belghoria Expressway connects NH 34 with NH 2 and 6 via the Nivedita Setu while the NH 117 is connected to NH 6 by the Kona Expressway via the Vidyasagar Setu.
Kolkata is well-connected to the rest of India by extensive railway network of the Indian railways. Two divisions of the Indian railways - the Eastern Railway and the South Eastern Railway are headquartered in the city. The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and Sealdah. A third terminal called Kolkata has recently been constructed. This station is in North Kolkata and can be reached by a road opposite to the RG Kar Medical College just beyond Shyambazar.
The electrified suburban rail network of the SER and the ER is extensive and stretches far into the neighbouring districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan, Midnapur etc.
The Circular Rail encircles the entire city of Kolkata, and is at present being extended. A new railway line offshoot has been built to connect the airport to the lines going to Sealdah.
Underground Metro Railway
Kolkata was the first city in South Asia to have an underground railway system that started operating from 1984. It is considered to have the status of a zonal railway. It is run by the Indian Railways. The Metro is a very well maintained and clean system. The existing Kolkata metro line is mostly underground which makes it different from Delhi Metro and Bangalore Metro (Namma Metro) which are mostly overground. The line begins at Noapara in the north and continues south through Esplanade in the heart of the city till the southern end in New Garia. There are new metro lines being built to serve other parts of Kolkata, including an East West corridor (Line 2) linking Howrah Maidan to Salt Lake Sector 5 through Sealdah. Its Construction has started after being halted due to a legal issue. Other lines being constructed are Line 3 Esplanade - Behala - Joka area, Line 1 Extension Noapara - Dakhineshwar area, Line 4 Noapara - Dumdum Airport - Barasat area and Line 6 New Garia - EM Bypass - Saltlake - Rajarhat Newtown - Dumdum Airport area. Some extensions are also planned. Trains run every 5–15 minutes from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. Fares are between Rs 5-25. The Kolkata Metro, though not as modern as its Indian counterparts, has commendable reviews due to its service, citing various helpful factors like the cheapness of the ticket, cleanliness and other facilities.
Howrah Maidan to salt lake sector v (East-West metro) is the most advanced metro system in India and also the first Underwater metro in India.
Kolkata has an extensive network of government run and privately run buses. The ticketing system is not centralized one and one has to purchase separate tickets for buses, metros, trains. Online ticketing and smart card facilities are available.
The bus tickets are simple paper tickets purchased from the bus conductor after you board the bus. Also there are multiple organisations running buses, a private organisation, and multiple government services like CSTC (Calcutta State Transport Corporation), CTC (Calcutta Tramways Company), WBSTC (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) etc. There are also various types of privately run buses.
The private-owned buses are quite typical of Kolkata. The private-owned buses are of two types, the regular ones and the mini-buses. The regular buses are coloured light-blue and yellow. The mini-buses are of brown and yellow colour, and contain lesser number of seats. The mini-buses were started in the late seventies as a relief for the office commuters from the overloaded buses by being a sitting-only service, but this has given way to severely overloaded and crowded mini buses (and other buses too), largely due to the massive population of Kolkata.
The government-run buses are run by several authorities like West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC), North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC). Government buses are generally painted in this colour with white stripes. and can be also identified by the WBTC symbol on their body. Usually these buses are either bigger buses. Both the name of the place where the bus is going to, as well as the name of the place where its route originated is mentioned on the bus, digitally or written. On the Route Board of the Private/Mini Buses, the ply through (via) stoppages are also mentioned. Recently larger & longer buses have been introduced under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). These buses are superior and they have LED display boards which show the route, source & destination and also the popular bus stops. Further, usually the conductor will call out the names of the stops to come at each halt, so boarding the right bus is not much of a trouble. If in doubt the conductor or any fellow passenger will help out. The buses will often stop to pick up a passenger who waves at the bus.
Air-conditioned buses have been introduced by the WBSTC & CSTC (now under WBTC). Under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) these buses have been included as a part of travel comfort to commuters. Air-conditioned buses are operated by WBSTC directly & through outsourcing. These buses are served by Tata Marcopolo Buses and Volvo Low Floor Buses. Air conditioned buses were launched as of July 2014 by CSTC on different routes across the city and suburbs. They are in blue and white livery and is a complete fleet of Volvo 8400 model & Ashok Leyland AC JanBus, bought under JNNURM scheme. AC buses are also operated under CTC (now WBTC). Around 450 JanBus, world's first, has been launched from 30 July 2014. These buses have been manufactured by Ashok Leyland
Long distance buses starting from Kolkata to various places like Bakkhali, Digha, Siliguri and other cities originate from the central bus depot at Dharmatala (popularly known as Esplanade) and Howrah bus stand. The tickets can be purchased on spot from the counters, online ticket booking websites or from the conductor on the bus.
In 2019 electric AC buses were introduced. Tata motors were given contract of supplying 80 such buses to the city. The fares for the electric buses is the same as that of AC Volvo buses — Rs 25 for the first four kilometres. But the ride is smoother.
The metered-cabs are mostly of the brand "Ambassador" manufactured by Hindustan Motors (now out of production). Once in a while, one or two Maruti Omnis, and Tata Indigo CS can be seen painted in yellow. Recently, air-conditioned cabs (known as "Blue-Arrow") and maroon cabs (running on Compressed natural gas) have been introduced. The meters - though digital - are generally out-of-date and there is a conversion chart to refer to while converting the meter-reading to the actual fare. But recently ORIX Auto Infrastructure Services Ltd. has introduced an air-conditioned Radio Taxi service in Kolkata with the name 'Kolkata Cab' with fleets consisting of Indigo Marina only, which has gained popularity among the city dwellers because it has comfortable seats, GPS monitoring, digital tamper-proof meters, receipt printers and lost-and-found facilities. Mega Cabs are also there with the same facilities. Some other prospective Radio Taxis rolled into the city are Fast Track, Uber Black, Ola, Easy Cabs and Meru Cabs, which are quickly gaining acceptance due to some strikes by the taxi unions.
The Meter Taxi/Cab Rates of Kolkata and Howrah have changed and new rates are applicable from 11 June 2018. From December 2013 all taxis in Kolkata should be having a calibrated electronic meter, where the passenger has to pay the exact value flashed on the meter. The minimum value is Rs.30 for first 2 km . This value gets flashed on the meter when one hires a cab. The yellow cabs are all non air conditioned and can be identified by its yellow livery and a glow light on top referring as taxi
Since for a very long time people in Kolkata were facing refusal and overcharging issues, the state government took some essential steps. From December 2013, Kolkata has been gifted with a new fleet of no refusal taxis. Most of these taxis are air conditioned (except the last produced batch of Ambassador) and are in white livery with a blue strip and ac taxi/taxi mentioned on front left door. The fare is same as in that of yellow taxis (same rate as flashed on the meter), except if driven with ac turned on, the passenger has to pay 25% on the displayed fare. So if the displayed fare is 50, the rate would be 63. The fleet includes Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Tata Indigo eCS, Tata Manza, Toyota Etios, Ford Fiesta, Mahindra Verito and the last production batch of Ambassador's new series Encore. All cars are first hand and are having electronic meter with a led display showing hired/for hire, GPS, fm radio, A/C, fire extinguisher and rear-view camera.
Kolkata is the only city in India to have a tram network. Trams are under the administration of the Calcutta Tramways Company, a government of West Bengal Undertaking, popularly called CTC. The trams are claimed to slow down other traffic, leading to groups who currently voice abolishing the trams. The environment-friendliness and the old charm of the trams attract many people. The tram lines laid in some major roads are being renovated to maintain the tram lines on the same level plane as the rest of the road, thereby smoothening the road. In places, the original central boulevards reserved only for the trams have been removed; the tram-lines are thus brought in the same plane as that of the road. The usable space of the road for vehicle movement has thereby considerably increased. With embedding of tram tracks in the road surface, the overall surface has become smoother, easing the traffic to some extent.
With the tracks now running in the centre of the heavy traffic roads, commuters are encountering difficulties in getting to the trams' stops through the traffic and, as a result, fewer people are able to use the tram. Mostly trams are found to be running with many seats vacant even during rush hours. This has also caused reduction of revenue for Calcutta Tram Company. One possible remedy towards difficulty of approach-ability to the trams could be to relay the tracks on left and the right sides of the road, adjacent to the footpaths. However, relaying the track may not be possible now as the modification will need enormous expenditure. Moreover, in many thoroughfares one flank of the road is used for parking cars on payment of fee. Thereby generating revenue to the government as well as providing space for car parking. Hence, relaying tram tracks on the side of the road may not be feasible. Though trams are environment friendly, the main drawbacks of tram are that they are slow moving and occupy a lot of road space which itself is less in Kolkata. In case of derailment or breakdown of a tram the entire road gets obstructed. It will be better to keep trams in only some roads where problem of traffic jams are expected to be less. The solution to this would be to improve the maintenance of the trams as well as the support of local traffic sergeants. Signals can be modified to stop when a tram is coming, for its easy passage. Also, tram tracks should be demarcated with a small but sturdy demarcation, which will enable bikes to traverse when there are no trams. Now, several initiatives have started to improve the tram's popularity as well as increasing revenues. The results are positive. The Tram Museum is the latest addition to such schemes, which also include heritage trams' small models and meals on wheels trams i.e. with dining options. 1st AC passenger tram ran in the city in 2019. Each of the AC trams, built at the Nonapukur tram depot near Ripon Street, cost Rs 25 lakh and is fitted with a 5.5 tonne AC unit, LED light bulbs and fans.
Like Light Rail, a monorail system has been proposed in Kolkata; however, plans to construct it haven't been materialised yet.
Rickshaws and Auto-rickshaws
Rickshaws pulled by men and auto rickshaws are commonplace. Many migrants from Bihar and rural Bengal are involved in rickshaw pulling. In southern Kolkata, the rickshaws pulled by men have been replaced by cycle rickshaws. Fares are usually set by the rickshaw unions. These rickshaws usually operate over short distances due to the manual effort involved, and mainly run on narrow lanes where buses and auto-rickshaws don't ply.These Rickshaws are not allowed to ply over main roads of Kolkata. Hand pulled rickshaws are mainly found in old localities of North Kolkata and some old localities of South Kolkata. Moreover, Cycle rickshaws are also a common transport in many localities of kolkata. They also ply on narrow lanes and not allowed to ply over main roads.
Auto-rickshaws have become a very common mode of transport for short distances. They are usually not metered, and are usually shared. There are several routes, and the auto-rickshaws of a particular route ply between two distinct places of that route only. Autorickshaws can accommodate three people in the backseat, and one passenger in front beside the driver legally. The fares are usually quite low compared to other metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the minimum fare being ₹8.Unlike other metros the autorickshaws do not run on a fare meter.The auto rickshaws are not allowed in major arterial roads and certain part of the city.
The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA code:CCU) at Dum Dum (previously known as Dum Dum airport) is the only airport in Kolkata Metropolitan Area, operating both domestic and international flights. It is a gateway to North-East India, Bangkok, and Bangladesh. The number of people using the airport has consistently increased over the last few years. There is a flying club in Behala. After several years of inactivity it has recently been restored.
Port and water-transport
Kolkata is also a major port and together with the Haldia dock systems, the Kolkata Port Trust has been amongst top performers in the country. Kolkata Port has regular passenger services to Port Blair from the Netaji Subhas Docks.
Also the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah are connected by local water ferries through the extensive ghats like Fairlie Ghat, Howrah Ghat, Shibpur Ghat, Prinsep Ghat, Cossipore Ghat, etc. Small boats are used for recreational purpose. There are plans to start utilizing the canals running through the city as water-transport network. The first service is scheduled to start from September 2016 - and would cover the Belgachia-Lake Town stretch of Kestopur Canal.
Besides all this mode of transport, like in other Indian cities, walking is very common way to commute between the workplace and nearest railway station or bus stop. Privately owned cars, though less in number and usage compared to other large cities in India, are growing by leaps and bounds and are slowly becoming the transport of choice for a large number of people being helped by the growing economy, higher per capita income and the easy availability of loans from financial institutions.
- Calcutta State Transport Corporation
- Calcutta Tramways Company
- West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation
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