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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Hovercraft bids farewell to Channel
A Hoverspeed craft (pic courtesy of Hovercraft Museum)
A Hoverspeed craft (pic courtesy of Hovercraft Museum)
The hovercraft is to make its final journey across the Channel on Sunday after 30 years of carrying passengers to France and back.

The last two hovercraft on the Channel, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret, are being taken out of service and replaced by two high-speed catamarans.

The hovercraft will make their final run from Dover to Calais at 1800 BST and return at 1930 BST.

It will be a sad day on Sunday

Nick Stevens, Hoverspeed
Britain will then be left with only one scheduled passenger hovercraft service, between Southsea, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight.

Operators Hoverspeed will put the hovercraft up for sale on the internet.

If not sold they will go to the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire.

Heralded with Concorde as the brave new face of travel when launched in the late 1960s, the craft have been forced into retirement by competition from the Channel Tunnel and the new breed of "superferries".

Hoverspeed spokesman Nick Stevens said: "The major reason for their retirement is the increase in the number of people taking cars abroad, either for day trips or longer stays.

"Hovercraft do not offer the level of capacity that is required."

They have the capacity for 52 cars, whereas the new catamarans can take 90. Hovercraft passengers also have to stay in their seats for the whole journey.

"The new catamarans are more spacious and people can walk around and shop on board," added Mr Stevens.

'Times change'

"They will also be the fastest service operating across the Channel."

The catamarans carry 600 passengers and are capable of 36 knots, taking 45 minutes from Dover to Calais.

This is slower than hovercraft, which are capable of 60 knots and take 30 minutes to make the crossing, but still faster than ferries, which take from 75 to 90 minutes.

"It will be a sad day on Sunday as a lot of people here have been attached to the hovercraft for many years, but times change and we have to move on," added Mr Stevens.

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See also:

30 Sep 00 | UK
Well worth the bover?
08 Jun 99 | UK
Hovercraft 'genius' dies
03 Jun 99 | UK
Life of a pioneer
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