Seaspeed was the hovercraft division of British Rail. Its legal name was British Rail Hovercraft Limited. It was established in 1965 and started its first service in 1966.


Seaspeed started cross-Channel services from Dover, England to Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, France using SR-N4 hovercraft in August 1968. The two hovercraft were named "The Princess Margaret" and "The Princess Anne"; the former featured in the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever"." In 1976, work started to considerably lengthen both craft by inserting an almost 17.1 metre (56.1 ft) long section. This increased the passenger capacity of the craft from 254 passengers to 418. This also increased the car capacity to 60.

Following the closure of the service in 2000 both craft are now preserved at the Hovercraft Museum.

A French-built N500 Naviplane (number N500-02, "Ingénieur Jean Bertin") was constructed in 1977 for SNCF for use on Seaspeed services. This craft proved less successful than the SR-N4 models and was withdrawn in the early 1980s.

Isle of Wight

Seaspeed also operated services across the Solent using smaller, passenger-only SR-N6 hovercraft; the service between West Cowes and Southampton commenced in 1966, later being joined by Portsmouth-Ryde and Portsmouth-West Cowes services. The Solent routes were transferred to Hovertravel in 1976. Hovertravel's services between Ryde and Portsmouth still continue.


Following permission being granted by the UK's Monopolies and Mergers Commission [] , Seaspeed merged with rival Hoverlloyd in 1981 to create Hoverspeed. The cross-Channel service hovercraft closed in 2000 following the opening of the Channel Tunnel (in 1994) and due to the age of the SR-N4 hovercraft.

ee also

*British Hovercraft Corporation
*Hovercraft Museum

External links

* [ Hovercraft services across the Solent (by Antony Barton)]

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