Petition to save last cross channel hovercraft nears 20k signatures
A petition to save the last two remaining SR.N4 cross channel hovercraft from demolition by property developers is nearing 20,000 signatures.
The petition was started in January by trustees of the world's only Hovercraft Museum, based in Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, where the last two remaining SR.N4 hovercraft The Princess Anne and The Princess Margaret currently reside.
Over fifteen years after retiring from their cross channel duties in October 2000 the giant hovercraft are facing the threat of demolition by their current owners, The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), who wish to clear space to build new houses at the former Royal Navy and RAF base HMS Daedalus.
The HCA, who own the Daedalus site, recently took ownership of the SR.N4s after a long and drawn out legal battle with their former owner over unpaid rent. Despite being situated on the site of the Hovercraft Museum since December 2000, neither The Princess Anne nor The Princess Margaret has ever been owned by the museum.
They were stored there by their former operators Hoverspeed, before being sold into private hands in the mid 2000s. Their new owner removed the Rolls Royce Proteus gas turbine engines from the hovercraft so that they could be used as spares for his private super-yacht.
The Princess Anne and The Princess Margaret are the last remaining examples of the gigantic SR.N4 car carrying hovercraft that flew across the English Channel, between Dover and Calais, for over 30 years from the late 1960s through to 2000. The Princess Anne still holds the record for the fastest commercial passenger ferry crossing of the channel, set on the 14th September 1995 with a crossing time of just 22 minutes.
Both hovercraft have suffered from corrosion and a lack of maintenance over the years, however The Princess Anne has been determined to be in the better condition and therefore efforts to save at least one of the craft are being directed towards her. The Hovercraft Museum has reluctantly accepted that it is likely The Princess Margaret, which was the first SR.N4 to be constructed, will have to be scrapped.
In their heyday a total of six SR.N4 craft were operating services to France, two stretched Mk III models with Seaspeed and four smaller Mk II's with Hoverlloyd. In the face of increased competition and financial pressure the two companies merged in 1981 to form Hoverspeed, who operated until 2005 with high-speed catamarans taking over after the hovercraft retired.
The petition to save the SR.N4s, currently with more than 19,000 signatures attached, is accessible online at change.org.