Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Bovver For The Hover

As the Forth Road Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge (painting finished in four years' time, btw!!) reach capacity, politicians have been scrabbling to find alternative ways to get people across the River Forth just to the north of Edinburgh. Towards the end of last year, the government announced plans to build a new road bridge which they are hoping will be built before restrictions have to be imposed on traffic on the existing crossing, as the bridge support cables are snapping at the rate of one a month (there's 11,000 of them, so it's not in danger of collapsing. Yet.)

One of the more innovative solutions was Stagecoach's proposed hovercraft service. They trialled it last summer, and I blogged about it then. In October, after studying the results of the trial and surveys, Stagecoach announced that they could attract 900,000 passengers a year. They also asked the government for a £3million subsidy to cover the first couple of years of operation, to top up the £10million they were going to put into the service themselves.

Hearing nothing from the government, Stagecoach have recently sought assurances that they will get the £3million. In a well-worn tactic used by companies the world over they announced to the public that if they didn't get the subsidy then the hovercraft project would be delayed, and may not sail at all.

Which is when the political shit hit the fan. The owner of Stagecoach is Brian Souter, a personal donator to the SNP who form the minority Scottish Government. The opposition Labour party member Lord George Foulkes - a man who can't open his mouth without it frothing - then accused Souter of trying to unduly influence the Government on the issue.

The political sniping has begun, and I can see it running and running. Stagecoach have reacted by taking the decision to suspend all preparations for the hovercraft, and it will no longer see service this year as planned. The losers are of course those commuters who are looking for an alternative to taking their car or a crowded train into the capital, as well as the city residents choking on fumes from the polluted streets.

It's times like this I wish I had sole responsibility for bashing people's heads together!

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