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Millennium Wheel will turn up late for the party

LONDON'S MILLENNIUM Wheel is unlikely to be open for public use by the start of the next century.

The news came as it was confirmed that the 135m high Ferris Wheel, to be built on the capital's South Bank, will be constructed by Dutch structural engineer Hollandia and French ski-lift manufacturer Poma.

The wheel is expected to be 'turning' and available for limited promotional use by 2000, but design delay, and the sudden departure last month of original design and build contractor Mitsubishi, means it is unlikely to be ready for public use until well into the new millennium (NCE 1 October).

The wheel's promoter, British Airways, also announced this week that British Steel will supply over 1,400t of steel for the structure and that the Tussauds Group will run the attraction, which will be known as the 'London Eye'.

Project manager for the wheel - now expected to cost pounds30M - is Mace. Director in charge of the project Tim Renwick said his team would be working closely with Hollandia and Poma to ensure the 'extremely tight programme' was met. He said that completing the design work was most critical to the programme.

'We hope to speed up design work by cutting through unnecessary bureaucracy and getting the Mace team more on board and focused on the supply chain,' said Renwick. 'The wheel will be turning, but we are not suggesting that it will definitely be available to the public on 31 December 1999.'

Construction of the project has been divided into seven packages. The civils and foundation package will be put out to tender within the next few weeks, with work on the piled foundation expected to start before the end of the year.

Hollandia will take forward the design concepts of architects David Marks and Julia Barfield and develop initial structural engineering started by Ove Arup. Design checking and technical advice is being provided by Allott & Lomax.

British Airways expects two million visitors will pay pounds6.95 for the 30 minute ride around the wheel in one of 32 fully enclosed 25 seater capsules during its first year of operation.

Antony Oliver

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