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Hovercraft plan may lift off

by CAR magazine on 23/01/2002

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Motorists in Gauteng are watching with interest as a plan hatches to run a fast train service between Pretoria and Johannesburg to reduce traffic in the province, but Cape motorists could have an even more innovative way to get to work. Two businessmen are hoping to introduce a hovercraft service between Blouberg and the Waterfront by the end of the year.

Motorists in Gauteng watch with interest as a plan hatches to run a fast train service between Pretoria and Johannesburg to reduce traffic in the province, but Cape motorists could have an even more innovative way to get to work. Two businessmen are hoping to introduce a hovercraft service between Blouberg and the Waterfront by the end of the year.

The 16 km car trip from Blouberg to Cape Town usually takes about an hour in heavy traffic and Alex Swanepoel and Quentin van Coller, joint partners in Hovercape, are hoping their plan to cross the sea can help alleviate the traffic snarls in the mornings and evenings. The hovercraft journey would take about 25 minutes.

"We have different options available at the Cape Town side – we could cater expressly for tourists and have a different option catering for commuters from Blouberg to the Waterfront, which is a stone’s throw away from the city centre," Van Coller told the Cape Times.

Trips would start at 5.30am and leave every half and hour. A round trip is likely to cost R35 for season-ticket holders and more for tourists.

Van Coller said a shuttle service would run from the main road in Table View to Blouberg so there would be no need to build many parking bays at the hovercraft terminal.

The two businessmen are hoping to buy two 100-seater hovercraft to transport about 1 200 commuters. The craft would be sourced from Britain or Russia and could cost between R16 and R80 million each. They would be able to handle the stormy Cape winter weather.

"My problem is that as the rand depreciates, procurement costs have gone up by 30 per cent and it now looks like Russia would be the cheapest option," said Van Coller. He said that he is talking to financiers who are interested in the plan and could give them the financial backing they need.

Hovercape, however, needs to get permission from the Blouberg administration first, as well as Table Bay harbour master Bill Shewell. Shewell said it would be possible for travellers to disembark at the Waterfront.

Van Coller said he would talk to the Blouberg municipality about a choice of launch site, and was also in negotiations with the V&A Waterfront about a terminus.