A WIRRAL company has been given a draft licence to re-launch a hovercraft service that was last seen in the 1960s.

Hoverlink (NW) believes the service could take 200,000 visitors to North Wales and Blackpool every year and will be operational from 2015. Its licence is expected to be finalised during a meeting in Rhyl tomorrow.

The scheme, supported by Wirral Council's regeneration department, will run from New Brighton's lifeboat station's launch stage. The enterprise will cost around £1m to set up and could create 100 permanent jobs.

The world's first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.

But news of Hoverlink's draft licence emerged on the same day that Hertfordshire-based Airspeed Hovercraft Solutions Ltd announced it had been granted a permit to operate a service from Wirral to North Wales.

Hoverlink's director Simon Clitheroe told the Globe today: "We have secured a draft licence to operate and are putting everything in place and hope to secure the operating contract during a meeting tomorrow. So we want to make sure everything is signed and sealed.

"Wirral has been identified as a major terminal hub for this service and will become an integral part of our service.

"I was born in Wirral, work in Wirral and believe the borough is the ideal location for this development."

Once operational, the service will transport customers from Wirral to Blackpool or Llandudno within 30 minutes, far beating any mode of transport currently available for speed and efficiency.

Hoverlink is encouraging potential customers to visit its social media sites for updates on the planned service.

AHSL's licence was granted following discussions with Vale of Clywd MP Chris Ruane. The Globe has contacted AHSL for a comment on its proposed service and is waiting for a response.

Mr Clitheroe continued: "As far as I'm aware, AHSL's service will be smaller, in comparison to ours, because it will only run from Wirral to Rhyl, whereas ours will take customers further, to Blackpool.

"There is an issue of two hovercraft services operating from the same place. Obviously, you can't have two hovercrafts arriving at the same time, so we want to ensure the services operate safely."

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