Westminster backing for hover plans

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Ambitious plans for a hovercraft service which would link Blackpool and Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport has won the backing of Westminster officials.

The service, which would be based on the River Mersey, aims to operate four brand new hovercraft serving different destinations, each with a capacity of 88 passengers.

The Hoverlink project aims to have terminals serving the Wirral area, north Wales, Blackpool and Liverpool in action by the end of 2015.

And bosses claim it would provide an “integral” link with Liverpool’s airport following the closure of the terminal in Blackpool.

Speaking about the meeting held in Westminster with Department for Transport officials and MPs last week, Hoverlink boss Simon Clitheroe said: “Though we’ve been working hard over the last year to get this operation off the ground, this was a fantastic opportunity to meet the MPs concerned, the Marine and Coastguard Agency and present to the Department of Transport to generate a discussion about a new hovercraft service.”

Hoverlink representatives presented their proposals to Under Secretary for Transport Robert Goodwill MP at Westminster. Other MPs attending the briefing included Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside), who is also Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Esther McVey (Wirral West), Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) and Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys).

Talk of the hovercraft service has been growing for several years but now Hoverlink say they are generating significant interest and have begun securing investment for the project.

Hoverlink chiefs told The Gazette in July that they would need an estimated £1m initial investment to get the project up and running.

“Momentum behind the Hoverlink project is building fast,” added Mr Clitheroe.

“The meeting outlined our exciting plans to provide a fast hovercraft linking the North West and North Wales. With the closure of commercial flights out of Blackpool, the hovercraft provides an integral transport link with Liverpool Airport.”

The service aims to create the fastest route to the airport from areas currently separated by the Mersey with journey times as short as 30 minutes for an average ticket price of £15, though early bird and package deals may be available.

Hoverlink says it would work with Liverpool John Lennon Airport in order to make sure that early morning passengers arrive with time to check in and load their luggage.

And answering concerns raised by some residents with regard to possible noise and light pollution, Clitheroe says the next stage of the development will involve “working as closely as possible with the community and local councils.”

He also hopes that the new transport link might boost the economy of the area by “changing people’s perspective of where they can go to work.” Hoverlink chairman David Kirwan, senior partner of North West law firm Kirwans, believes that the scheme could “boost the North West economy by potentially billions of pounds over the next few decades.”

The service will provide up to 100 jobs and generate potential for further businesses to work with the terminals, the company claims.

The Gazette first reported plans for the Hoverlink venture in December last year – at the same time as Freckleton firm Walton’s Coaches revealed its own early £10m plan for a hovercraft link with Southport.

No one from the Department for Transport was available for comment.

Mr Maynard said: “The potential of a direct hovercraft service to Liverpool is an exciting development and I look forward to working with Hoverlink to put this to the councils and local enterprise partners to turn these plans into reality.”

Chris Ruane, the Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd, who tweeted his support for the project, saying: “Excellent cross-party meeting with Transport Minister and Hoverlink on hovercraft service in N Wales and N West.”