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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
New Channel ferry service starts
A SpeedFerries catamaran
The launch of the service has been delayed twice
The first direct ferry link between Dover and Boulogne in more than a decade has come into service.

Danish firm SpeedFerries received the go-ahead to run the catamaran service from last February but the start was dogged by delays.

The firm - which says the service is already heavily booked - will run the 50-minute journey five times a day.

Management claim they will be offering cheap fares having learned lessons from budget airlines.

The first service left Dover at 0745 BST on Wednesday.

SpeedFerries originally planned to start its service last summer but the launch was delayed twice.

It will run a fleet of 86-metre catamarans with room for 200 cars and will only be carrying people in cars, not taking any foot passengers.

Passengers who make online bookings far enough in advance will be offered return fares as low as 50, whereas some cross-Channel ferry companies charge more than 100 for similar journeys.

But SpeedFerries tickets booked at short notice will be more expensive, with highest prices above 200.

Transport industry analyst Chris Tarry said: "It's always welcome to see a new competitor come into the market but this is a market where there's significant over-capacity already.

"The choice that the consumer makes is really on the basis of price and it's to be seen whether the new company can match the price of the lowest operators already."

Fast ferry service delayed
08 Aug 03  |  Kent
New ferry service welcomed
04 Feb 03  |  England

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