A hovercraft service which would take commuters from Fife to Edinburgh is to have a trial run for three weeks next year, it has been confirmed.
An artist's impression of the Fife to Edinburgh hovercraft service
Brian Souter's Stagecoach group is to run the pilot project in the spring.
It had been hoped the 130-passenger craft would trial next month on a route between Kirkcaldy and Portobello.
Stagecoach blamed Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for delaying the service, but SNH said it was following the normal environmental checks.
A Stagecoach Group spokesman said the firm was frustrated at the delay to setting up the service, which could cut up to an hour off some bus journey times.
He said: "Stagecoach has always taken its environmental responsibilities very seriously and we have a good track-record of delivering sustainable public transport services.
"The technology we are hoping to use is already proven in the UK and United States, with no impact on wildlife and the local environment.
"There is a broad consensus that a cross-Forth link can deliver significant transport, economic and social inclusion benefits and we have had huge support for the project from politicians and the local community."
Two metre waves
Scottish-based marine consultant Alistair Macleod has carried out detailed exploratory work on the hovercraft plans on behalf of Stagecoach.
The crossing time between Kirkcaldy and Portobello would be about 20 minutes and the craft, with normal operating speeds of about 35 knots, could run in sea conditions with waves of up to two metres.
Stagecoach estimates running a two-craft operation would cost about £2m a year, taking about 9,000 passengers a week - and up to 470,000 passengers a year.
While the service would require initial public investment, Stagecoach believes that within a few years passenger volumes could grow to make it commercially sustainable.
A Scottish Natural Heritage spokeswoman said: "The idea that we have caused a delay in the launch of a hovercraft service on the Firth of Forth is nonsense.
"As with any new project on this scale, there are steps which have to be gone through before it can be approved.
"SNH has put considerable effort over the summer into working with the developer on the environmental approval process for the project, required by national and international law. We have responded promptly to all the information they have provided."