A fascination with trams and people is what inspired Kuntal Langrana to become a tram driver.
On just her second day of learning to drive, a pedestrian walked in front of Kuntal Langrana’s moving tram.
It was early morning, with little traffic about, and the tram was travelling at its maximum speed of 50 km/h when Kuntal saw someone, headphones in, walk onto the road directly in front of her.
“My trainer was right behind me, and he’s watching too,” she recalls of the event. “And then I start reducing my speed – but I was still too fast, and then I had to pull both full service and my leg brake together.”
The tram stopped within half a metre of the pedestrian.
Kuntal says she still can’t recall exactly how it all happened in those few seconds. “It was a pure reflex,” she says.
It was when she and her trainer Jason Fawcett watched the CCTV footage of the incident that Kuntal realised that her swift action was the direct result of the very intense training that she had undergone.
Kuntal speaks highly of everyone involved in training drivers and attributes them and their encouragement for her success. “The training is excellent. I still go out nervous but confident,” she laughs, “because you don’t know what’s out there.”
Random incidents are an everyday occurrence for Torrens Connect’s tram drivers, who urge everyone to be careful around the tram corridor – pedestrians, cyclists, and car drivers.
“You have to look for so many things,” says Kuntal, debunking the idea that driving a tram is a monotonous job. “You have to be so vigilant that you can’t lose your focus.”
Growing up in Bombay, and living briefly in the USA, it wasn’t until Kuntal and her husband moved to Australia that she had ever even seen a tram. But it was the interaction with people that made her want to become a tram driver.
She commuted for years from Glenelg to the Adelaide CBD and got to know the drivers and conductors at the time. It was witnessing tram drivers and how they interact with people first-hand that prompted her to change her career.
“I’ve always been a face-to-face person; never behind the scenes,” says Kuntal. “It was something very fascinating for me and the people were lovely.”
Now that she’s a driver, it’s those same interactions with customers that she really enjoys.
“There are people out there who recognise you. It’s a very lovely feeling,” says Kuntal. “You might not recognise them because you ferry so many passengers, but if they’re a regular and they have travelled with you, they recognise you. So when they say, ‘Hello’ and ‘Good bye’ and ‘Thank you’, it’s a very lovely feeling.”
“Every day is a new day,” say Kuntal with a smile. “It’s good.”