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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK


Millennium wheel gets rolling

An artist's impression of London's fourth-highest building

The Millennium Wheel project on the River Thames is finally under way after constructors were granted planning permission for the £20m structure.

Project manager Mace has now begun a race against time to build the 400ft-high wheel by January 2000.

The BBC's Jonathan Sumberg: "It will carry 800 people in 32 capsules"
The 1,500-tonne observation wheel, officially called the British Airways London Eye, had been planned as a tourist attraction in time for the Millennium.

But delays have meant that it will not be up and running until at least early next year.

[ image: The wheel's 32 capsules will offer 25-mile views]
The wheel's 32 capsules will offer 25-mile views
The continuously-rotating wheel will stand in Jubilee Gardens, next to the old County Hall building opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Completing one full turn every 30 minutes, the wheel will give a 25-mile view across the city to 800 passengers in 32 glass capsules.

The structure - London's fourth-highest building - will be built horizontally across the river using seven temporary islands.

It will then be hoisted upright in a 24-hour operation in late August, ahead of its public opening ceremony "some time in January 2000".

[ image: The wheel will be next to the old County Hall on the south bank]
The wheel will be next to the old County Hall on the south bank
Parts of the wheel are already being made in the UK, Holland, the Czech Republic, France and Italy.

These include five massive rim sections, the largest weighing 144 tonnes.

The parts will be brought up the Thames by barge between May and August.

Tim Renwick, of Mace, said: "Building over water is very unusual and hoisting a structure of this magnitude into place is a huge task.

"Imagine a bicycle wheel almost three times as high as Tower Bridge, four times as wide as the dome of St Paul's Cathedral and heavier than 250 double-decker buses and you start to get an idea of the scale of the task."

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