Hovercraft service dream for the Forth resurfaces

Thousands used the route from Kirkcaldy to Portobello during the successful trial in 2007. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Thousands used the route from Kirkcaldy to Portobello during the successful trial in 2007. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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PLANS to introduce a hovercraft service across the Forth have been revived after a new company was created to reignite the concept.

Hopes have been raised that a crossing from Kirkcaldy to Portobello could become a reality seven years on from a 
successful trial after a firm called Forthfast Ltd emerged as a potential operator.

News of the company became known after it requested more time to complete a planning application at the former Stagecoach bus depot in Kirkcaldy, from where the 2007 trial had been conducted.

Although 32,000 passengers used the route throughout the two-week period, proposals to carry on permanently were sunk when Edinburgh City Council refused planning permission for a terminal on the south side of the Forth.

While the hovercraft crossing may still be some way off, the intervention by Forthfast suggests there are still hopes that a new connection between Fife and the Capital could still be established.

Alastair McLeod, one of the company directors, said: “This is part of the process to keep the project alive but there is nothing to report with regards to any service commencing.”

Stagecoach, which operated the trial service with funding from Sestran, was keen to carry the project forward and in 2008 pledged to invest more than £10 million in two craft, plus infrastructure.

The company argued a sea crossing was greener than using the Forth Road Bridge, while the trial proved demand existed.

But Edinburgh City Council refused plans for a ramp for the craft, citing visual impact, noise and transport concerns.

At the time a Stagecoach spokesman said the decision had “killed off” the company’s plans, while its chairman, Sir Brian Souter, said he was “scunnered”.

While the intervention of Forthfast does not mean any new service is imminent, it has offered some encouragement to those in Fife who still hold on to the hope that a regular crossing can be established.

Councillor George Kay, representative for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy West, has always championed the route.

He said: “Being an optimist I always thought it would be something that brought people from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy, instead of something that took people from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh.”

Robin Presswood, head of enterprise at Fife Council, confirmed the renewal of the application would keep the situation “ticking over” but no service plans were in the immediate pipeline.

Stagecoach has worked on ideas for a sea-based crossing between Fife and Edinburgh for more than a decade, arguing that it offers a faster and greener alternative to car travel across the Forth Road Bridge, one of the most congested routes in Scotland.

The hovercraft journey time from Kirkcaldy to Portobello was 20 minutes.