In 2011, when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she wished to convert the City of Joy into 'London' by putting up the London Eye on Hooghly river, a lot of eyebrows were raised with many citicising Banerjee's wish to just make cosmetic changes as opposed to actual development.
Nine years later,the Chief Minister seems to be implementing her promise ahead of Durga Puja 2020 by reviving the iconic double-decker buses that are a common site in London. Although Kolkata itself had its share of double-deckers till the 1990s, the buses went into disuse in 2005. Now, 15 years later, the city has welcomed back the iconic buses, but with a twist.
The newly launched blue and white buses wont be used for daily commuting but for ‘Durga Puja Parikrama’ to take tourists sightseeing across the city during the festive season.
Spearheaded by the Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal, Iconic #DoubleDeckerBus back on #Kolkata streets! Chief Minister @MamataOfficial launched the fleet with special facilities! Hop on & Hop off, enjoy the #KolkataConnect#UnknownKolkata #ExperienceBengal pic.twitter.com/66OK0vWqDg— West Bengal Tourism (@TourismBengal) October 14, 2020
“Such buses are usually seen in London. They will tour the heritage and landmark places in the city and highlight the culture and tradition,” Banerjee said while flagging off the buses. More buses will be added when the idea catches up, the goverment said.
The buses have only one door for entry and exit and a total of 51 seats in the bus out of which 16 will be in the upper deck which will be roofless. The bus is also equipped with a destination board, CCTVs and panic button.
Netizens had a rush of nostalgia when the news broke and welcomed the sight of the modernised buses. The double-deckers were introdcued in Kolkata by the British back in 1920 but were later taken off the roads by the then Left government. The first double-decker bus plied between Shyambazar and Kalighat.
.@MamataOfficial never fails to surprise us with amazing initiatives! This year to make the pujo parikrams a little more special she introduced the double decker buses in which we can sit and enjoy the beauty of Kolkata during the festival days!#KolkataConnect https://t.co/aG7ds5jSmd— Pradosh Chandra Mitra (@feluda_007) October 13, 2020
Great that kolkata's iconic double decker buses are returning back on road..this type of roof open buses run in London and Paris ! We love Kolkata! pic.twitter.com/MGePuZ430g— C .Parthasarathi (@ChatterjeePart4) October 13, 2020
I'm glad the state government decided to bring back double decker buses in Kolkata! Just about the right time..huehuehue 😏😏— _Rishan (@Kilzierhertz) October 13, 2020
Some, however, cast doubts on the longevity of the plan as the buses require high maintainance. Also, the city's weather might not allow round-the-year operations.
Why is everybody saying double decker bus returns to Kolkata? It hasn't. It is not part of the regular city transport. It is an open top tourist bus. Also, wondering how far it will be maintained as it won't be able to operate for greater part of the year owing to weather issues.— Uttara Gangopadhyay (@ug_cal) October 15, 2020
It's nostalgic, yes! But open roof in this Kolkata heat and dust makes it look ill planned. Rather entire bus should have been AC. Don't understand the purpose it can serve— Santanu Ghosh (@urs_shaan) October 14, 2020
Open roof seating arrangement in the heat of Kolkata, this will not go down good !!😅— Shubo (@shauriekhanna) October 14, 2020
Back in 2015, Banerjee had also inaugurated a permanent structure similar to that of London's Big Ben, the clock tower in the city's northern part. The original London's clock tower is however, over three times the size of its Kolkata replica.