Long before civil aviation and international travel became mainstream there was this incredible Bus that travelled all the way from London to Calcutta. Let us take a look at the amazing adventure of Albert Bus company that operated the longest Bus route till date.
More than 60 years ago long before Bengal politicians tried to transform Calcutta to London or before Civil Aviation became mainstream making it so easy to go around the world in 80 days or less crossing the great many seas and oceans there was this bus. The bus that literally drove from London to Calcutta covering a distance of whooping 33,000 kilometers.
The bus was operated by the British Company Albert Travel. The bus started its journey by making the maiden trip from London to Calcutta on 15th April, 1957. It took about 50 days to travel this huge distance including breaks, sightseeing and the regular pit stops. The first journey ended on June 5th in Calcutta. The bus that started from Europe went all across the Middle east and entered the Indian subcontinent.
Journey commenced in London, England and it covered several countries while reaching the destination of Calcutta in India. From England the bus entered Belgium following which it crossed the borders of West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and entered into India via Pakistan. Once inside India it went to Calcutta coming from the west and crossing the major cities of New Delhi, Agra, Allahabad and Benaras covering attractions such as the Taj Mahal. This route also came to be known as the Hippie trail since from the 50’s to 70’s this used to be the route taken by westerners of the Hippie Subculture to travel and network with others of the same group.
But wasn’t such a massive journey an ordeal for the passengers? After all, to think of commuting just 20 kilometers in the urban traffic in a bus seems like a truly tiring commute. Well – not quite, because the Bus had state of the art comfort facilities to ensure that the passengers could take this journey of a lifetime in the utmost luxury. The Bus was equipped with reading facilities, sleeping bunks and electric heaters.
There was also a kitchen to ensure that the passengers never went hungry during this long journey. To keep the passengers entertained the bus was equipped with a music system and it made stops at major tourist destinations in the cities of Tehran, Salzburg, Kabul, Istanbul, Vienna, Agra and Benaras. This long journey with all the amenities didn’t come cheap though. It cost about 85 pounds which was near to 8800 rupees and was quite expensive for that time.
Albert Travel’s journey was stopped for a few years after it stopped operating following an accident. It was subsequently converted to a double decker and started to operate from London to Calcutta going all the way to Sydney. For the Australia part it travelled to Burma from where it was shipped to Australia passing through Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. There were primarily two routes in which this Bus operated the London – Calcutta – London route and the London – Calcutta – Sydney route which took about 132 days to complete.
Albert’s journey came to an end due to the Islamic Revolution of 1976 in Iran and the mounting tensions between India and Pakistan due to which border hostilities kept on escalating till it was no longer considered safe to travel. Reportedly Albert had done 15 complete trips before permanently shutting down to the changes in global politics. While today we have improved technology to ensure we can make this journey more comfortably in a much shorter time it is indeed unfortunate that with the tensions between the nations in Asia and Middle East this would seem virtually impossible.
Arunava Bhattacharya: DNI