Mumbai: Four years after the Maharashtra government purchased special buses for Hop On, Hop Off service, it is now preparing to run them for tourists in Mumbai.
The 11 buses, which the state tourism department bought for about Rs 8 crore, have been lying in a corner of Mumbai’s Santacruz bus depot since early 2018.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is now looking for a company to maintain and operate these buses, and has floated a tender.
Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism, said, “The state government purchased these buses in 2016. They were even operated for a month or so, but then the project stopped. The business model was perhaps not the right one, and there wasn’t much publicity done.”
“This time, the project will work because we are adding a lot of new destinations and designing tourist circuits for these buses to ply on,” he added.
Open upper deck, pantry, tourist circuits
The MTDC will first have to service the 11 buses and get them in perfect working condition before the plan takes off, a tourism department official said.
Once the MTDC manages to rope in an operator, the corporation plans to draw up various tourist circuits such as a freedom circuit, which will involve stops such as Mani Bhavan, the focal point of Mahatma Gandhi’s political activities in Mumbai; the August Kranti Maidan, where Gandhi gave the ‘Quit India’ speech; Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s house; locations of the 1946 Naval Mutiny, among others.
The corporation is also planning a museum circuit to bring some of Mumbai’s lesser-known museums on the tourist map. “Mumbai has 10-12 museums, but only the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalay and, to some extent, the Bhau Daji Lad Museum are popular,” Singh said.
She added that there are plans for promoting a home dining concept for tourists and such spots can also be woven into the Hop On, Hop Off route in the future.
Besides, the MTDC also plans to incorporate destinations such as the Wankhede stadium and the heritage headquarters of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) — with whom the state tourism department recently signed agreements — on the Hop On, Hop Off map.
The 11 air-conditioned buses, which have 40 seats each, are equipped with a toilet, a basic pantry with a microwave oven and coffee maker, an entertainment system, WiFi and GPS tracking devices, as per details from the MTDC. Half of the buses have an open upper deck. The MTDC plans to have audio guides too.
Plan originally conceived in 2015
The plan to have a Hop On, Hop Off service for tourists in Mumbai dates back to 2015.
Until then, the MTDC had a ‘Nilambari’ open deck bus tour. The MTDC operated the tour in an open deck double-decker bus of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST), and ran the service in two batches in the evening on weekends in South Mumbai.
The tour would start from the Gateway of India and showcased major tourist attractions in South Mumbai — such as Mantralaya, Marine Drive, Vidhan Bhavan, the Asiatic Library, Hutatma Chowk, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus — without any halts. The ridership was insignificant.
The state tourism department, under the former BJP-led government, decided to revamp the service along the lines of any major international tourist destination and procured 11 swanky buses in September 2016.
The MTDC signed an agreement with a private operator to start the Hop On, Hop Off service in March 2016, six months before it procured the buses. The registration of these buses was completed in 2017, but the service never took off and the private operator handed over the buses to MTDC in March 2018.
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