30 minute hovercraft service between Niagara Region, Toronto expected in Summer of 2023

Hoverlink Ontario Inc. says it will have a new service available for passengers travelling between Toronto and St. Catharines by the summer of 2023. Hoverlink Ontario Inc.

A private Ontario transport operator promising 30-minute hovercraft service between Niagara Region and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) says it expects the first trips will be made in the Summer of 2023.

Hoverlink Ontario Inc. says the transports will be able to move passengers across Lake Ontario in just a half-hour — significantly sooner than typical two- to three-hour trips made by cars and buses.

The first, and only, route will see hovercrafts travelling between Ontario Place in Toronto and Port Weller in St. Catharines, 365 days a year with up to 48 lake crossings per day.

Founder and CEO of Hoverlink, Chris Morgan, says the idea came during a casual conversation with family in 2011 while he was overseas in the United Kingdom.

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“We talked about technology and … how it can work … around cities that have water, water links for lack of a better description,” Morgan told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

Morgan says the initiative came to fruition after years of studying population densities, structures, roadways, gridlock, urban sprawl, and water craft technology.

He brought current board member and former Toronto Argos running back Michael “Pinball” Clemons into the fold just a couple years later to help with the development.

Two crafts, each with capacity for about 180 passengers, are expected to serve more than three million travellers per year with “low-emission” engines and virtually no “wake” or “wash” causing harm to shorelines and protection efforts along Lake Ontario.

The company says it’s in the final stages of approval with all levels of government and has engaged 300 stakeholders throughout the GTA for the last 10 years to make the project a reality.

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Morgan says initially the service will host just passengers and perhaps some small parcel service.

“It’s strictly for passengers. We won’t be taking cars in this generation of craft,” said Morgan. “That’s a future opportunity that we’ve been engaged with for about three years now.”

Hovercraft technology has been in use across most regions of the world, particularly the U.K., U.S. and Canada, for decades with practical uses tied to military services and coast guards.

The vehicles can travel across land, ice and water, in virtually all-weather conditions and temperatures.

The company estimates a roundtrip will cost about $50 to $60 per person. Wi-Fi and shuttle bus service will be included in fares.

Niagara Region receives an estimated 13 million tourists per year with 92 per cent arriving in a vehicle. Toronto also gets at least 27.5 million visitors annually, according to Hoverlink.

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Morgan says he sees the transports as complementary to all the other transit options now running between Toronto and Niagara.

He says Hoverlink will have it’s own shuttle service at each stop connecting riders with common destinations in each region.

“If you’re going to the south shore, one will be dedicated to Niagara-on-the-Lake, one headed to Niagara Falls’ Clifton Hill area and one into St. Catharine’s,” Morgan said.

“In Toronto we’ll have them as well that can service Billy Bishop Airport or Union Station or even the Royal York.”

Ideas for a cross-lake commuter service have been floated for years, but none has ever found success. A fast-ferry service from Toronto to Rochester, N.Y., ran briefly in 2004, but eventually failed due to financial troubles.

– with Files from The Canadian Press

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