Airships could provide a lift

HUNTINGDONSHIRE could play a pivotal role if airship production resumes across the county boundary at Cardington in Bedfordshire. The huge 157ft tall hangars, one of which was used by Warner Brothers to film Batman, dominate the Bedfordshire skyline and h

HUNTINGDONSHIRE could play a pivotal role if airship production resumes across the county boundary at Cardington in Bedfordshire.

The huge 157ft tall hangars, one of which was used by Warner Brothers to film Batman, dominate the Bedfordshire skyline and have been little used since the disastrous maiden flight of the R101 in 1930.

But new technology that combines lighter-than-air helium airship technology and air-cushioned hovercraft technology has spawned a series of new-style craft that could provide a rapid passenger service between Cambridge and Oxford or, in a larger version, carry a freight payload of up to one million kg.

Production plans were halted in 2005 when the manufacturer, Advanced Technologies Group Limited, went into administration, but a financial restructuring is now thought to be nearing completion.


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The size of airships is constrained by the size of the hangars in which they are built, but major components could be manufactured at disused airfields in Huntingdonshire, such as RAF Upwood or RAF Alconbury, before assembly at Cranfield, believes the district council's head of policy, Ian Leatherbarrow.

"It would be entirely in line with our aspiration that this district should be a key centre for environmental science and environmental technology," he told The Hunts Post.

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"For passenger use, they could potentially operate routes that are not well served by road or rail," Mr Leatherbarrow said. "And journeys can be very quick because you don't have to go through the same routines as at an airport."

What is particularly exciting an informal group of business people led by John Davies of Sealed Air in St Neot, is the potential for a passenger link between England's two principal university cities. Road links between Cambridge and Oxford are poor, and a recent decision to allow an Olympic-size rowing lake in Bedfordshire severs the old railway trackbed, effectively preventing restoration of the rail link.

Mr Davies, supported by academics in Cambridge, believes an airship link could be a commercial prospect.

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