Firth of Forth hovercraft service plans back on

The Stagecoach hovercraft during its 2007 trial run. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Stagecoach hovercraft during its 2007 trial run. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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PLANS FOR a Forth hovercraft service have been put back on the table, it was revealed on Thursday.

Hopes have been raised that a crossing from Kirkcaldy to Portobello in Edinburgh could be established after the emergence of a new company, Forthfast Ltd.

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It has requested an extension to the time required for demolition and removal of buildings at the former Stagecoach bus depot, which was used as a base for a trial service three years ago.

The bus operator shelved its planned service after Edinburgh City Council refused planning permission for hovercraft landing and passenger facilities on the south side of the estuary.

While a service may still be some way off, the intervention by Forthfast suggests there are still hopes that a new connection between Fife and the capital can be established one day.

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.”

During a trial service in the summer of 2007, 32,000 passengers crossed the Forth between Kirkcaldy and Portobello.

Stagecoach, which operated the service with funding from Sestran, was keen to carry the initiative 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.

Edinburgh City Council refused plans for a ramp for the craft, however, 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.

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