Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hovertravel building new hovercraft for Solent crossing

Hovertravel
Image caption The existing Hovertravel craft are nearly 30 years old

Two new vessels are being built for the hovercraft service between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, its operator has announced.

Hovertravel unveiled the new craft, under construction at Griffon Hoverwork in Southampton, for its Southsea-to-Ryde service.

The new craft each cost £5m and are capable of carrying 80 passengers,

Hovertravel managing director Neil Chapman said it was a "vital investment".

The new vessels, slightly smaller than the company's existing craft, are due to enter service in 2016.

The hovercraft service, which has been operating between Southsea and Ryde for almost 50 years, remains the fastest cross-Solent passenger service, with a journey time of 10 minutes.

Image caption The new hovercraft are being built at Griffon Hoverwork in Southampton

Paul Clifton - BBC South Transport Correspondent

The Portsmouth-to-Ryde route is the world's only commercial hovercraft service.

There are proposals for a service between Liverpool and North Wales, but so far they have not worked out. The Solent service has been running for almost half a century.

"The journey takes ten minutes so it's like a minibus service", Richard Price told me. He's been commuting daily from Ryde to the mainland for 47 years, and he's delighted with the new smaller design.

"A big one would use so much fuel it would not be viable," he said.

Forget the giant car-carriers from Dover of 30 years ago; most hovercraft are now used for remote rescue work or border control. They are used in 41 countries, from the Arctic to the rain forests of South America.

Griffon Hoverwork in Southampton has built 200 of them. It has 150 staff and a healthy order book. This is the new heyday of the hovercraft.


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