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Clutch fault slips wheel opening

LONDON'S MILLENNIUM wheel has so far failed to turn. The London Eye was due to take VIPs and 250 prizewinning guests on its first passengercarrying spin as part of the New Year's Eve celebrations on the River Thames.

But during the last 10 hours of a 500 hour commissioning and safety proving test programme in the week before Christmas one of the modules failed to disengage from the turning mechanism.

Each 25 person passenger carrying module on the wheel has a computerised levelling mechanism powered by an electric motor.

The clutch orientates the capsule during its half hour sightseeing circuit. The clutch must release the capsule in the event of a power failure to let it self-level by gravity.

During the test one of the 32 units failed to work.

Taking the decision to hold back was obviously deeply disappointing said project manager Tim Renwick of MACE.

Engineers from French capsule subcontractor Poma travelled to the Northampton, UK, base of the clutch manufacturer Stromag to help with the stripping down and investigation of the failed mechanism.

The investigation revealed that the failure had been caused by two components jamming inside the clutch. It is thought that these components were not produced to the exact tolerance required by the design and so it was decided that all 32 clutches would be replaced.

This exercise was expected to be completed as NCEI went to press and it was anticipated that the wheel would be ready for a 'soft opening' in February for previews and invited guests.

However sponsor British Airways confirmed that the gala public opening would not happen until early March and also admitted that trips and corporate functions pre-booked for February were being rescheduled for later in the year.

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