For tourists coming to West Bengal, cruising along the Ganga on a luxury liner with stopovers at the historic city of Murshidabad and elsewhere will be on offer soon as the Tourism Department plans to rope in the private sector to implement the Rs.130-crore project which has been christened the Ganga Heritage River Cruise.

Tenders for the public-private partnership project are to be floated next month.

“The project did not receive a positive response when it was introduced the first time, but a second round of tenders will be invited soon,” Tourism Minister Manabendra Mukherjee said. Participants had some reservations at that time which had been addressed.

“Private operators are already plying a cruise between Kolkata and Varanasi, and our plans are also moving in a positive direction,” he said.

Asked about the expectations from the second round of tenders, Managing Director of the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) T. V. N. Rao said he was hopeful this time round as the initial reservations of the interested investors had been ironed out.

The first tender had been invited in 2008 to which three parties had responded with an expression of interest. However, two of them backed out, Mr. Rao said.

“As a result the tender process fell through as a tender cannot be carried on the basis of one applicant alone, but this time around these issues have been sorted out.”

Mr. Rao explained that investors wanted a change in the proposed equity structure of the PPP (public private partnership) and they required land for facilities such as docking and the setting up of workshops.

A fund of up to Rs.50 crore has been approved by the Centre for the project, which was initially proposed as equity. However, private investors wanted it to be in the form of a grant or a subsidy, Mr. Rao added. Investors were also being offered WBTDC land, he said.

While the State government has had cruises to the Sundarbans for quite some time now, the Ganga Heritage Tourism is a relatively new offering. Previously, it entailed a hybrid trip of travelling by road to an upstream point near Murshidabad and beginning the downstream cruise with stopovers at tourist spots en route. The trip ended with an evening at Belur Math.

The initial reservations of interested investors have been ironed out

The Rs. 130-crore project has been christened the Ganga Heritage River Cruise