Seaspeed

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Seaspeed
Industry Passenger transportation
Fate Merged with Hoverlloyd 1981
Founded 1965
Defunct 1981
Headquarters Dover, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Area served Strait of Dover, Solent
Parent British Rail

Seaspeed was the joint hovercraft operations of British Rail (under British Rail Hovercraft Limited) in association with the French SNCF.[1]

British Rail Hovercraft Limited was established in 1965, under authority given to it by the British Railways Act 1967 and started its first service in 1966.

Cross-Channel[edit]

Seaspeed started cross-Channel services from Dover, England to Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, France using SR-N4 hovercraft in August 1968. The two hovercraft were named The Princess Margaret and The Princess Anne; the former featured in the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever". In 1976, work started to considerably lengthen both craft by inserting an almost 17.1 metre (56.1 ft) long section. This increased the passenger capacity of the craft from 254 passengers to 418. This also increased the car capacity to a total of 60.

Following the closure of the service in 2000, both craft are now preserved at the Hovercraft Museum.

A French-built N500 Naviplane (number N500-02, Ingénieur Jean Bertin) was constructed in 1977 for SNCF for use on Seaspeed services. This craft proved less successful than the SR-N4 models and was withdrawn in the early 1980s.

Isle of Wight[edit]

Seaspeed also operated services across the Solent using smaller, passenger-only SR-N6 hovercraft; the service between Cowes and Southampton commenced in 1966, later being joined by Portsmouth-Ryde and Portsmouth-Cowes services. The Solent routes were transferred to Hovertravel in 1976. Hovertravel's services between Ryde and Portsmouth still continue.

Merger[edit]

Following permission being granted by the UK's Monopolies and Mergers Commission,[2] Seaspeed merged with rival Hoverlloyd in 1981 to create Hoverspeed. The cross-Channel service hovercraft closed in 2000 following the opening of the Channel Tunnel (in 1994) and due to the age of the SR-N4 hovercraft.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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