THE introduction of a new hovercraft service could bring a major economic boost.
Hovertravel has revealed a number of excursions that will be running from Lee-on-the-Solent in 2018 – which could lead to a permanent service in the future.
The excursions will either take residents around Solent waters on leisure trips, or on day trips to and from the Isle of Wight. Hovertravel has previously said it would consider a link to Southampton, although that is not part of these plans.
Trips will be made in one of Hovertravel’s two new hovercraft – costing £5m each.
In an invite-only event, the firm showcased some of the attractions – as well as the skills of the hovercraft pilots.
Managing director of Hovertravel Neil Chapman said: ‘This event was about getting to know the community and launching our excursion programme – and I think it has gone exceptionally well.
‘We have seen an immense about of enthusiasm from the local community and that is exactly what this event is about. We have the new hovercraft, which are quieter, smoother and much more fuel efficient.’
Mr Chapman says that next year will serve as a good trial period, to measure the demand for trips.
He said: ‘What we will be doing is monitoring the success and working with the community. We will only develop a permanent route across the Solent once it is a viable business model.
‘We want to understand if the business opportunity is there for the long term, and will continue to explore those opportunities.’
Head of Gosport Borough Council’s economic development board Cllr Stephen Philpott believes that the service offers a good opportunity for Isle of Wight residents to get a taste of life in Lee-on-the-Solent.
He said: ‘I think this is going to be a massive hit.
‘I can’t see why this couldn’t become a permanent service but it has got to be commercially viable – the question is how the company is going to market it.
‘The council will give them whatever assistance they need – we are very open to working with them in partnership to make it a success.
‘I want to see a reciprocal arrangement. I’d love to see people come from the island to Lee-on-the-Solent – we can see one another from the shoreline, after all.
‘It is a great opportunity for people on the Isle of Wight and here to spend more time in each other’s communities and boost the local economy.’