KIRKCALDY’S hopes of having a new hovercraft link with Edinburgh are expected to be dashed today (Thursday).
In a report to the environment, enterprise and transportation committee, taking place this morning, Fife Council is seeking approval to sink the project for the foreseeable future, due to financial problems and a lack of interest.
Council officers are recommending that members of the committee suspend the process procuring the hovercraft, while noting that Fife Council and Edinburgh Council would still work together to provide “as much non-financial assistance as possible to establish this link”.
When hovercraft trials took place in summer 2007, it looked likely that the project would go ahead after more than 32,000 passengers used the boats to get between Kirkcaldy and Portobello.
However, after marketing exercises only revealed two potential operators who both expected a substantial annual subsidy, the project has ground to a halt.
A cash-strapped Fife Council has said it is impossible to procure cash - up to £1 million per year - to subsidise the project.
And although the local authority did have the money for year one set aside, much-needed match funding from Edinburgh is not available.
However, Stagecoach have said the project could still go ahead, with planning applications for landing facilities still in for consideration.
If they get passed, the company will then get the chance to look again at possible crossings.
Stagecoach spokesman Steve Stewart said: “We are very much aware of the current challenging environment in terms of both the economy and public finances.
‘‘We have been consistently supportive of both a ferry and a hovercraft as potential cross-Forth public transport solutions and still believe there is a future for a sustainable sea-based link in the long term.
“We are continuing to progress our planning applications with Fife Council and City of Edinburgh Council for landing and passenger facilities on both sides of the Forth in connection with a potential hovercraft link.
‘‘This is a key first step in the project and a number of other factors would have to be considered before we reached the stage of any passenger service being launched.”
Several Kirkcaldy residents have expressed their disappointment in the proposals to halt the project, with many saying the hovercraft would have increased business in the town.
Writing on the Press’ Facebook page, Elaine Seefeldt said: “I can’t help feel that Kirkcaldy is trapped in a timewarp while Dunfermline is thriving and a joy to visit. ‘Isn’t it time Kirkcaldy was brought into the 21st century by firstly a hovercraft linking us to the Edinburgh area?
‘‘All those plans for this wonderful shopping centre we are meant to be getting - surely that’s a reason to go ahead with the hovercraft?”
Another resident added: “Fife Council has got to take this forward - it would be a great boost for the town and the businesses.”
However, Labour’s Fife transportation spokesman Mike Rumney has said perhaps the novelty of a day trip across the Forth “may have raised some false expectations in the minds of potential operators.”
.d uptake of this mode of public transport up to a commercially viable venture.”