CUTTING OUT A SLICE OF HISTORY!

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Wondering what I am talking about? Well, this article is going to interest you a lot. More than half a century, after they were phased out to make way for buses and private vehicles lately, trams will make a comeback on the busy streets of the Walled City in Delhi. Delhiites, or the people of Delhi, will now get a slice of history back, with the state government for the first time considering a proposal to build a tramline in Shahjahanabad, or popularly known as Old Delhi. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), had prepared a detailed feasibility project report on the venture, to which the state government agreed upon the matter.

The Delhi government would go ahead with the tram project in the old city’s commercial section despite concerns among some traders in Chandni Chowk, a popular market area in Old Delhi. A senior official of the tram venture said that a meeting with Chandni Chowk traders is being fixed in the following week to dispel their misconceptions about the tram project, which promises to decongest and beautify the area. A National Green Tribunal (NGT) order will be implemented against loading and unloading of goods during the tram operating hours.

The proposed tramline is a part of the New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) ambitious Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Plan 2018. The 17th century Mughal-era locality will sport a new look, along with the new tram route, along with non-motorised vehicles at Chandni Chowk and its neighbouring areas. by 2018. The corporation has secured Rs. 1800 crore loan and $305 million additionally from the Asian Development Bank to fund the restoration work of the Walled City. This would help Old Delhi get another chance of getting the UNESCO World Heritage Site status, after UNESCO officials had rejected it in December 2014.

The owners of the properties in Old Delhi would be encouraged to take up the restoration work and mixed use possibilities would also be explored simultaneously. The plan also includes a 25 km stretch of internal streets and roads in the Walled City with underground utilities, pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks wherever feasible, street furniture, and big and clear signage boards.

The DMRC officials said that they would need help from other agencies for the construction of the tramline. The tramlines will be constructed on the left of the main road of Chandni Chowk. It is a proposed 4.3 km of tramline in the busy Chandni Chowk area. However, 1.6 km of it will be elevated due to space crunch. The tram coaches will be gated and air-conditioned and the ticketing system will be based on the existing metro system, which is either by smart cards or tokens.

S.D Sharma, the director (business development) of DMRC added – “Once we complete the construction, any automobile will not be allowed around 250 metres of the trams. The tram trains can run at a maximum speed of 50 km/hr, but we will limit its speed to around 20 km/hr. They will stop at every 200 metres, and gates at the three-coach tram trains will ensure that people do not board or deboard while it is moving.”

Thanks to the Delhi Metro, footfall at Chandni Chowk and other neighbouring markets has increased manifold in the past few years. With another metro station slated to open near Red Fort by the end of 2015, traders fear there would no space left for people to move on the narrow streets. The trams will run between 8 am and 8 pm. It will connect the entire Old Delhi, offering passengers and tourists an alternative to view the Walled City on a tram. Also, two multi-parking lots will be constructed in Town Hall, for reducing congestion and allowing space for both the pedestrians and the trams to go on smoothly.

From 1908 to 1963, trams chugged amidst tongas, cycle-rickshaws and bicycles in Old Delhi, but will the old charm be able to provide a safe commute and reduce vehicular population is something that the experts need to look at. While the bigger plan is to have the same network of about 15 km, as the Walled City had in the first half of the 20th century, it will connect Esplanade Road with Sadar Bazar. Trams connected key places like Asaf Ali Road, Paharganj, Old Delhi Railway Station, Kashmere Gate, Red Fort and Chandni Chowk during that time. At its zenith in 1921, there were around 24 open cars, utilising about 15 km of track. The trams are expected to draw a ridership of 1 lakh people when it becomes operational.

It is appreciable that the tram system is introduced as soon as possible, which was prevailing some 50 years back for the benefit of the people, when congestion and pollution were not at all present at that time. Developing tramlines are an excellent initiative to reduce vehicular pollution and the non-motorised transport itself, is a eco-friendly. This mammoth project should be well executed, so that it can be used for sightseeing tourist attractions or travelling in the interior parts of Old Delhi, where rickshaws and autos cannot go inside the narrow streets. The Government of India should look into this and develop tramlines in small towns, where metro systems are not feasible.

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