Millennium Wheel Winched into Place

London's trouble plagued attraction will be ready to spin says sponsor

A two day operation to lift the giant Millennium wheel high into the sky over central London has been hailed as a huge success. The wheel's sponsor, British Airways and a team of engineers were thrilled to see the 450ft Ferris wheel complete its lift to 65 degrees above the Thames, with BA predicting it will be open by New Year's Eve.

It will remain locked there while engineers fit a drive shaft and support structure. When the wheel - known as the London Eye - is pulled into position next week it will stand at 450ft. That's 130ft taller than Big Ben's tower round the corner at the houses of Parliament.

A massive crane lifted the wheel at a rate of one foot every five minutes. Four miles of the high-tension cable had been attached to its 80 spokes.

The �20 million ($32.4 million US) project has suffered a series of setbacks, the latest coming when the first attempt to raise the 1,500-tonne wheel four weeks ago ended in embarrassing failure after a cable socket slipped.

BA is now saying that the London Eye up and running to play a full part in the Millennium Eve celebrations. Engineers are now set to install drive motors and restrain towers.

Within a week the first of the 32 French-built passenger capsules will be installed on the rim of the giant wheel. The London Eye, as the wheel is going to be known, will be the fourth tallest structure in London. It will carry up to 15,500 visitors a day.

The first paying passengers are expected to be able to climb aboard in January. Tickets will cost pounds 7.45 for adults and pounds 4.95 for children.

DATE: 10/11/99

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