Southsea hovercraft: frustrated passengers have had enough – Rick Jackson

Unreliable - the new hovercraft Solent Flyer.
Unreliable - the new hovercraft Solent Flyer.
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The population of Portsmouth may swell slightly soon as friends of mine who commute from the Isle of Wight are reaching the end of their tether with their mode of transport.

Some are actually concerned about the future of one of those companies, the one that operates the world’s only year-round hovercraft service – Hovertravel.

It has a proud history of innovation, reliability and excellent customer service, but recently things seem to have been going horribly wrong.

With more than 50 years of operating under its belt, the service has never suffered as much disruption and as many cancellations as it does now, thanks to its new state-of-the-art craft.

The future looked bright when the newly-designed Island Flyer and Solent Flyer received lots of media exposure when they arrived on station in their striking Union Flag-inspired livery.

Sadly, they have not proved to be as reliable and robust as the craft they replaced which were about 30 years old.

Unable to mount the steep pad at Southsea, giving a more uncomfortable ride and being underpowered in strong winds, have all hampered the craft. New vessels have teething problems and many have been fixed. I find them much more comfortable and quieter to travel on than the previous craft.

But constant issues have seen one head back to the makers, one again for more urgent repairs and modifications, leaving one craft to stand alone.

Understandably, the old craft were retired to fully concentrate on the new ones, but continual service cancellations are getting to the stage where most passengers want the old craft to return.

Many islanders missed the Great South Run on Sunday as the service was yet again suspended because of a ‘mechanical issue’. Embarrassingly, extra flights that day had been advertised.

I hope the issues with the new craft can be solved once and for all, or a back-up craft made available, otherwise many customers will lose their patience.

The worry is, if these issues aren’t resolved we could lose a familiar sight and sound on our beaches for good. I desperately hope we don’t.

Of all the shops in all the world to crash a bus into…

It never ceases to amaze me how buses have such spectacular accidents. Remember, not too long ago, two double-decker buses lost their roofs under the railway bridge at Portchester.

What was more incredible than the driver forgetting he was in a very high-sided vehicle, was that the second accident was only six months after the first. 

Well, earlier this week, a bright orange single-decker ploughed into a shop in West Yorkshire. No-one was seriously injured, but the bus mounted the pavement and got wedged under the canopy of the shop and in the window frame.

And the shop? Shipley Eyewear Opticians. That driver really should have gone to Specsavers!

So, who died in a house like this? Click here to find out…

Would you be interested in the history of your house? I would. I know it was built in 1934, but I’d love to see what it was like new and how the houses on my street and the surrounding areas went up.

Who were the first owners? How many kids did they have and why did they move? Fascinating stuff.

There are plenty of webistes you can use that give you the history of your property, but one website I don’t think I’ll be using is which allows you to find out if anyone died while living in the house.

Being up at 4.30am each day, that would make me think the creaks and groans made by older houses, might have more meaning!