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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 13:58 GMT
Forth hovercraft trials to start
An artist's impression of the Fife to Edinburgh hovercraft service
A three-week hovercraft ferry trial on the Firth of Forth is to be conducted in the summer.

The impact of the service on the estuary's wildlife will be assessed during the trial run, alongside its popularity with passengers.

It will link Kirkcaldy with Portobello in Edinburgh.

The 120-seat hovercraft service is aimed at commuters who would normally travel into the capital across the busy Forth Road Bridge.

A spokesman for Stagecoach, the company behind the venture, said he was delighted with the support the company had received in its venture from the public, politicians, and local authorities.

Formal applications for permission have been lodged with Fife and Edinburgh councils.

Passenger volumes

There was a short-lived, cross-estuary, ferry service in the early 1990s.

Now, with Forth transport very much back on the agenda, the concept is being considered again.

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 2m.

Stagecoach estimates that running a two-craft operation would cost about 2m a year, taking about 9,000 passengers a week, That would be an annual total of 470,000 people.

While the service would require initial public investment, Stagecoach believes that within a few years passenger volumes could grow to make it commercially sustainable.

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