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Above: An overall view of the hoverport site from the roadway leading back to Boulogne. The tall, well-maintained blue building is ironically the offices of the Boulogne development authority. The decrepit terminal building itself can be seen sheltering behind with the concrete ramp heading into the sea on the right. Visible on the left hand side is the railway line which once provided direct access to the hoverport's dedicated railway station.
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BOULOGNE (LE PORTEL) HOVERPORT
Top: An overall view of Boulogne hoverport in the 1980s with the rail station in the foreground and the still extant office block adjacent, linked to the terminal by an overhead walkway. Out of the picture, to the left, were the extensive maintenance facilities provided on the French side in association with the introduction of the doomed SNCF N500 Naviplanes. Although the structure of the terminal itself remained in 2005, the railway station and maintenance base had been demolished.
Above: Vehicle access to the hoverport is blocked by a closed and locked gate. Being by nature open to the beach however the site is easily accessible on foot. The hoverport remains quite extensively signposted throughout Boulogne.
Above: The hoverport seen from the landing pad.
Above: The pad itself remains marked out.
Above: Examining the hoverport's exterior more closely reveals its dereliction - all the glazing has long gone and these arrival and departure gates have been bricked up and received some unauthorised artwork.
All 2005 pictures matt@hhvferry.com
Above: The main entranceway shares the same design seen in the bricked-up gates above. In this case however, shorn of its doors and of the glazing which once surrounded it, the entrance stands isolated with the abandoned concourse stretching out beyond.
Boulogne was the original destination for Seaspeed's operations out of Dover (Calais was later added as an alternative) and the first Boulogne hoverport was opened in 1968 coinciding with the arrival of the first SRN4. The location was actually somewhat outside Boulogne itself, being built on the beach at the adjacent resort of Le Portel. To deal with the introduction of the stretched SRN4s and the N500 Naviplanes, the hoverport was quite significantly rebuilt in 1978 when the current terminal building was constructed. Ironically, it was on the pad at Boulogne that the sole operational N500 Ingenieur Jean Bertin was broken up in 1985 after just seven years of intermittent and ultimately unsuccessful operations. The Boulogne terminal itself was abandoned by Hoverspeed in 1993 - at this time the company focussed Boulogne operations on the SeaCat service to Folkestone which they had started in 1992 but which ran into the main port of Boulogne rather than Le Portel. Hovercraft operations were thus ended and the hoverport itself no longer required.
Above: Boulogne was unique amongst the hoverports for having a direct rail connection with its own railway station at the rear of the terminal building. This is a view of the station during the hoverport's heyday - the Western Docks hoverport in Dover never received the originally promised direct rail link, thus to a degree undermining the station provided on the French side - by the time of the Boulogne terminal's closure in 1993 the conventional ferries still provided train-connected services using the Calais Gare Maritime and Dover Marine station.
BOULOGNE HOVERPORT IN 2005
Above & below: (Above) An overall view of the main concourse - ticket and other information offices (below) were located to the left whilst to the right were customs and passport control, departure lounges and the Duty Free shop.
Above: The remains of what was once the Hertz car hire office on the main concourse.
Above: Passport control.
Above: Looking back into the main concourse from one of the departure areas.
Above: Inside the large departure hall, with the exit gates leading onto the hoverpad on the left all bricked up.
Above: Genuine abandoned Seaspeed-era WCs! For the record this is the Ladies.
Above: Around the back of the terminal building. Running across this view before abandonment was a covered walkway for passengers moving between hoverport and the adjacent railway station. For a town with a population of just 45,000, Boulogne used to have a disproportionate number of railway stations, reflecting its status as an international transport hub: the main Gare de Ville, the suburban Gare Tintelleries, the Gare Maritime itself, the Hoverport station and the Gare Trains Auto Couchettes (TAC), used primarily by British motorail passengers heading to the South of France. Boulogne's fall from grace can be marked by the demise of this duplicity: The TAC is now a lorry park (its function removed to a new TAC station in Calais when the ferries began leaving Boulogne in the early 1990s); the Gare Maritime has had its lines removed; the hoverport station is demolished.
Above: A postcard celebrating Boulogne's first hoverport, dating from the 1960s. The hoverport was rebuilt in 1978 in anticipation of the arrival of the larger craft due to enter service.