Seaspeed
Encyclopedia
Seaspeed was the joint hovercraft
Hovercraft
A hovercraft is a craft capable of traveling over surfaces while supported by a cushion of slow moving, high-pressure air which is ejected against the surface below and contained within a "skirt." Although supported by air, a hovercraft is not considered an aircraft.Hovercraft are used throughout...

 operations of British Rail
British Rail
British Railways , which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail, in stages...

 (under British Rail Hovercraft Limited) in association with the French SNCF
SNCF
The SNCF , is France's national state-owned railway company. SNCF operates the country's national rail services, including the TGV, France's high-speed rail network...

.

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

Seaspeed started cross-Channel services from Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 to Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 and Boulogne-sur-Mer
Boulogne-sur-Mer
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan 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
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 film "Diamonds Are Forever
Diamonds Are Forever (film)
Diamonds Are Forever is the seventh spy film in the Eon Productions James Bond series, and the sixth and final Eon Productions film to star Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film is based on Ian Fleming's 1956 novel of the same name, and is the second of four James Bond films...

".
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
Hovercraft Museum
The Hovercraft Museum, located in Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire, England, is dedicated to hovercraft.The museum has a large collection of various designs of hovercraft - numbering over sixty at the last count...

.

A French-built N500 Naviplane
N500 Naviplane
The N500 Naviplane was a French hovercraft built by SEDAM in Pauillac, Gironde.- Manufacture :Two models were built:...

 (number N500-02, Ing√©nieur Jean Bertin) was constructed in 1977 for SNCF
SNCF
The SNCF , is France's national state-owned railway company. SNCF operates the country's national rail services, including the TGV, France's high-speed rail network...

 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

Seaspeed also operated services across the Solent
Solent
The Solent is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.The Solent is a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels. It is an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting the Cowes Week sailing event annually...

 using smaller, passenger-only SR-N6 hovercraft; the service between Cowes
Cowes
Cowes is an English seaport town and civil parish on the Isle of Wight. Cowes is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east Bank...

 and Southampton
Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

 commenced in 1966, later being joined by Portsmouth
Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

-Ryde
Ryde
Ryde is a British seaside town, civil parish and the most populous town and urban area on the Isle of Wight, with a population of approximately 30,000. It is situated on the north-east coast. The town grew in size as a seaside resort following the joining of the villages of Upper Ryde and Lower...

 and Portsmouth-Cowes
Cowes
Cowes is an English seaport town and civil parish on the Isle of Wight. Cowes is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east Bank...

 services. The Solent routes were transferred to Hovertravel
Hovertravel
Hovertravel is a ferry company operating from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK. They are the only company operating in Britain with passenger hovercraft, after Hoverspeed stopped using their craft in favour of catamarans...

 in 1976. Hovertravel's services between Ryde and Portsmouth still continue.

Merger

Following permission being granted by the UK's Monopolies and Mergers Commission, Seaspeed merged with rival Hoverlloyd
Hoverlloyd
Hoverlloyd operated a cross-Channel hovercraft service between Ramsgate, England to Calais, France. It operated four SR.N4 type hovercraft and was a rival to Seaspeed .-Company ownership:...

 in 1981 to create Hoverspeed
Hoverspeed
Hoverspeed, formed in 1981 by the merger of Seaspeed and Hoverlloyd, was a ferry company that operated on the English Channel from 1981 until 2005....

. The cross-Channel service hovercraft closed in 2000 following the opening of the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

(in 1994) and due to the age of the SR-N4 hovercraft.

External links

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