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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Hovercraft service plans to connect Niagara and Toronto
North America’s first-ever rapid transit hovercraft set to launch in summer 2023 will connect Toronto and the Niagara Region in 30 minutes.
North America’s first-ever rapid transit hovercraft set to launch in summer 2023 will connect Toronto and the Niagara Region in 30 minutes. CNW Group/Hoverlink Ontario Inc.

Company headed by NOTL resident will dock in Port Weller, with free shuttle bus to NOTL

 

For $25 to $30, you could soon commute one-way across Lake Ontario to work, see the sights or catch a flight from the island airport – all in about 30 minutes.

Hoverlink Ontario Inc., headed by Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Chris Morgan, plans to launch a cross-lake hovercraft service by next summer and run daily year-round.

The company, headquartered in St. Catharines, unveiled its plans Wednesday after nearly 11 years of planning and research, Morgan said in an interview.

The service will run two hovercraft on up to 24 round-trips daily from Port Weller in St. Catharines to near Ontario Place.

Each craft holds up to 180 people.

On both ends people can be picked up or take free electric shuttle buses to a variety of destinations.

Bus routes are planned from Port Weller to NOTL, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

On the Toronto side, people will be shuttled to Billy Bishop Airport, Union Station and other stops, Morgan said.

“We’ve talked to hundreds of people about this and so many people in Niagara have told us this is a game-changer,” he said.

Morgan, a father of four who grew up in the Aldershot area of Burlington, moved to NOTL in 2018.

He has an earth sciences degree from McMaster University and extensive background in motorsport racing and international marketing for companies like Procter & Gamble, Walmart and Nestle, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Besides the convenience factor, he emphasized the environmental-friendly aspects of the hovercraft service.

“The crafts ‘hover’ on a cushion of air above the water, so they leave virtually no wake or wash, and unlike traditional boats and ferries, they cause no harm to shorelines and protection efforts along Lake Ontario,” he said in a news release.

As well, the machines are “super quiet,” he said – “quieter than a standard dishwasher.”

Eventually the two hovercraft his company will operate on the lake will be electrically powered, but that technology is not yet ready, he told The Lake Report.

“We’ve assembled experts from around the world and this will be the first service of its kind in North America,” he added.

The company’s two craft are now being built in North America and once complete will be subject to open-water testing before the service can launch next summer, he said.

But Hoverlink already has many of its government approvals in place and has been working behind the scenes with municipal and provincial politicians for several years.

NOTL Lord Mayor Betty Disero, who said she’s “excited” and “elated” about the project, first met Morgan during the 2018 election campaign.

Since then, council has discussed the plan twice during in camera sessions and is fully supportive of the project, she said.

This is not the first such project to be proposed for a cross-lake service but the technology and Hoverlink’s research make this one different, Disero said.

“It’s affordable and environmentally friendly,” she said in an interview, “and I believe people will embrace it” rather than spend hours stuck in traffic on the QEW travelling to and from Toronto.

Morgan noted his “closest friend,” former Toronto Argonauts star Michael “Pinball” Clemons is on Hoverlink’s board of directors and has been a valuable sounding board.

He said he came up with the hovercraft concept while on a business trip to the U.K. in 2011.

“We were talking about technology and urban challenges and struggles to make it easier for people to move about” which prompted him to start researching options and diving into the historical data to “see what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense.”

“When it started making sense, I started getting nervous. So, I went to one of my closest friends, Michael Clemons, and said, ‘Let’s punch holes in this. Let’s see if we can make this better and if I’m missing something, please tell me.’ “

Long story short, they felt they were on to something and now, after years of preparation, they’ve gone public with it.

Based on the research, focus groups, studies and meetings, he also is confident it is the right option at the right time.

He said the service isn’t so much competing with other travel choices as it is offering “a Golden Horseshoe rapid transit option” to people who want to embrace clean technology that cuts greenhouse gas emissions and don’t want to sit in their car for hours.

Ultimately, if the hovercraft service takes off, the company hopes to serve more than 3 million passengers a year.