Nearly 50 years after trams in Mumbai rode off into the sunset, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking has decided to resurrect a rusted tram coach, which has been in a shambles at the Anik depot.
The rundown tram coach stands in the compound of Anik depot
"We will be restoring it. We are also looking for a proper space where the tram coach can be kept for public viewing," said H Gophane, spokesperson for BEST.
On February 23, mid-day had reported about the condition of the tram ('Tram in ruins, but BEST now wants to preserve tracks'). In the report, BEST officials had agreed that they had received flak for the poor condition of the coach and said that they were taking measures to preserve it.
Trams were the lifeline of Mumbai for over 90 years, until March 1964, when they were taken off the roads. This particular coach was brought in from Kolkata in 1994, in order to be preserved in the BEST museum. But over the last 20 years, the coach has been lying neglected.
"We spent more than R70,000 only in transporting it from Kolkata. It's sad that the administration has not maintained it," said Ranjan Chaudhari, BEST committee member, who first raised the issue about the tram's condition.
At present, this coach has been kept at the Anik depot compound, where every bit of its metal frame has rusted. Its tyres are punctured and the overhead equipment and cables are in tatters. With the frame having collapsed entirely, there is an unobstructed view of the car's interiors, the large steering wheel and a vestibule-like section connecting the two halves of the coach.
Sources said Mumbai's humid climate was responsible for the damage. Besides, the BEST museum at the Anik depot hasn't upgraded its facilities to maintain such relics.
"In fact, last year, the BEST administration wanted to sell the tram as scrap. It was going to fetch over R4.9 lakh. This is when people objected to it," said Chaudhari.
Well-known artist and chairperson of the National Gallery for Modern Arts Suhas Baulekar had spoken against the dismantling of the tram coach.
"When I visited the BEST museum, I was told that it was to be sold as scrap. I spoke with the authorities and I am glad that the BEST is restoring it," Baulekar said.