WE MUST use the Solent to ease crippling traffic congestion in our area.
So says the leader of Fareham Borough Council, Sean Woodward.
He has called for a stop at Daedalus airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent to be involved in ambitious plans for a Hovertravel service between Portsmouth and Southampton.
The plans, which are still in the initial stages, were conceived by Councillor Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council’s leader, to improve connections between the two cities and reduce traffic congestion in the Solent area.
Hovertravel is developing the proposal for the service, although more concrete details on a set route are unlikely to be revealed until next year.
Cllr Woodward says a stop at Daedalus would be ‘logical’ due to the marine slipway present at the airfield and its proximity to residents from both Fareham and Gosport.
He said: ‘The water remains a vastly untouched resource for the Solent area in terms of being utilised for transport.
‘If you can get a hovercraft from Southsea to the Isle of Wight, the question remains why can’t you get it to Southampton?
‘Daedalus already has a slipway, is a thriving business area as it is the Solent Enterprise Zone and is an ideal location for both Fareham and Gosport residents.
‘It would be a very good alternative to cars and the rail service in my book.
‘It should be seriously looked at to see if we can make this happen but of course it would need to be affordable, clean, efficient and reliable.’
Hovertravel has started discussions with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) about the prospective service, which could run from Southsea to a landing pad near Southampton.
A study previously indicated that the average journey time between the cities would take 28 minutes.
Hovertravel’s managing director Neil Chapman insisted that the plans remain in their infancy.
He said: ‘We are very much still in the early days of this as need to make sure that the service would be accessible for the public and affordable.
‘However, I would say that the aspirations from the councils to use the water is key to the growth of the cities.’
While the route is yet to be ironed out for the prospective service, Mr Chapman said that Hovertravel was finding it a ‘challenge’ at this stage to find a location in Southampton for the hovercraft to dock in the city that was accessible to residents.
He added that while a possible stop at Daedalus had been presented to Hovertravel, a route was still in the process of being developed.
Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council is backing the idea.
He said: ‘I think Gosport residents would embrace these proposals.
‘Anything that offers an alternative travel route for residents should be welcomed.
‘It’s correct to say that we do not use the water enough and it is great that at least talks are happening into exploring this.’
Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham said: ‘Improving transport and local infrastructure is an important priority to me.
‘Fareham has a proud maritime heritage and a thriving maritime economy – so it makes sense that we make full use of the resources the waterways have to offer.
‘It is very encouraging that the Solent LEP is considering a water taxi service and a stop at Daedalus could provide an important link.’