Yes you read correctly, hovercraft passenger crossings are poised to be launched in Scotland. Plans are in place to develop regular hovercraft crossings both across the Firth of Forth and across the River Clyde.
Forthfast is the proposed service across the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh and Fife. This popular commuter route is currently serviced by either the Forth Road or Forth Rail Bridge, with most passengers making the journey by car. However following a successful trial hovercraft service in 2007, there are hopes a permanent hovercraft service will be launched.
The proposed hovercraft crossing, Forthfast is being developed by Scottish transport company Stagecoach following a two-week trial in July 2007. During the trial more than 32,000 passengers were transported onboard the 28 metre long craft between Kirkcaldy and Portobello. During the trial there were a total of 22 scheduled services a day with more crossings during rush hour. Each 20-minute crossing took 130 passengers with dedicated shuttle buses ran from Portobello to Leith and Edinburgh City centre. Watch a video about Forthfast here.
So what is the environmental case for a hovercraft crossing across the Forth? The main reason is to reduce the high number of car journeys made.
If commuters can be persuaded to switch to the hovercraft it will represent a significant shift towards public transport use which can help reduce emissions as a hovercraft will more efficiently carry passengers. It is estimated that 70% of cars crossing the Forth Road Bridge only carry one passenger. Looking at the bigger picture; road emissions make up 70% of Scotland’s transport emissions, with transport emissions making up around a quarter of Scotland’s total.
Following the Forthfast trial Stagecoach had hoped originally to have the service in place by summer 2009, but following delays it is hoped a service could be running by 2011.
Stagecoach confirmed on the 19th November 2009 that it now has in place a multi-million proposal with the Bland Group to operate Forthfast. The new service could carry around 870,000 passengers annually using two purpose-built state-of-the-art 150 passenger hovercraft, with crossings every 25 minutes at peak times and an hourly off-peak service. Stagecoach have just submitted detailed planning applications to both Fife Council and Edinburgh Councils with the outcomes expected in early 2010.
If the Forthfast service is launched it will be the first passenger service across the Forth since a short-lived ferry crossing in the early 1990s. The only previous hovercraft to have been used in Scotland commercially ran on the Clyde in 1965 but folded within a year. However a new hovercraft service across the River Clyde, Clydefast is also seeking to begin operation. A successful four-day trial took place in 2008 using a 12 seat hovercraft. A larger scale commercial service is hoped to soon launch from Glasgow to Dunoon and Rothesay.
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