Recently, Melbourne and Kolkata’s tram enthusiasts organised the 150th-anniversary celebrations of Calcutta’s slow-paced trams.
The Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA), modelled on Melbourne’s Public Transport Users Association (MPTUA), founded in 2016 wants to see the Kolkata tramways revived and modernised.
The name Tramjatra is taken in part from the Bengali word jatra, which means journey. Tramjatra (tram’s journey) is essentially a collaboration of tram lovers and artists is viewed as “a joyous carnival” that helps connect Australia and India.
One of the chief attractions of the Kolkata event is Roberto D’Andrea, a retired tram conductor from Melbourne, who also happens to be the festival’s creator.
In 1994, Roberto D’Andrea first travelled to India on a five-week holiday with Sarah Pears, his tram-driving girlfriend. He returned to Melbourne and discussed the idea of forming a sister relationship between the Belgachia (Kolkata) and South Melbourne tram depots.
Deputy Consul General of Australia in Kolkata also rode the no. 5 tram through the streets of North Kolkata with Roberto D’Andrea and his close friend Tony Graham.
Both Kolkata and Melbourne have a unique tramway system of continuous use along with cities like Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Toronto, San Fransisco, and Hong Kong.
Tramjatra, a moving tram carnival, was started in 1996 jointly by enthusiasts from Melbourne and Kolkata which shared the history of tramway operations to 1800s.
In October 2017, the Melbourne Kolkata Tramjatra Tram celebrated 21 years of tramways friendship. Two special trams were launched as part of the 2017-18 Melbourne Festival Arts Trams by the Victorian Government with representatives from Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria.
The India-Australia friendship trams have names like Bondhu, Calbourne, Durga, Tramjatra, Sundari, Cricket, Baccha, Paribeshbondhu, Gitanjali, and Love Tram Save Tram.
When Tramjatra started, Kolkata was home to about two dozen routes which have now shrunk to just two. The 2023 Tramjatra event is seen as a tram-lovers plea to the West Bengal government to preserve the eco-friendly tram.