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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK


Tide puts spoke in Millennium Wheel

The wheel is due to be finished by the New Year

Engineers working on the Millennium Wheel on the banks of the Thames in central London have had another setback.

BBC News' Robert Hall: "They simply cannot afford any more hitches"
Passenger carriages for the wheel, which were being ferried on barges up the river, had to come to an abrupt halt - thanks to a very high tide, and the size of London's bridges.

The first two of the 32 nine-tonne egg-shaped capsules were held up at Tower Bridge on the Thames because the water was too high to pass safely underneath.

[ image: The pods pass the Millennium Dome...]
The pods pass the Millennium Dome...
They had been due to arrive on site opposite the Houses of Parliament by 1600BST.

But a spokeswoman for British Airways, which is sponsoring the wheel, said there would be no delay to the schedule as a result and the wheel was still expected to be running by New Year's Day.

She said: "The same thing happened to the crane. A project like this is never straightforward and this is just taking longer than expected."

The pods would be fitted over the next eight days.

[ image: ...but they are held up at Tower Bridge]
...but they are held up at Tower Bridge
The capsules, built in Grenoble, France, by French ski-lift company Poma, are expected to carry about 25 people each on the 450ft high wheel.

The news is the latest spoke in BA's plans for the Millennium Wheel.

Lifting the wheel, more than double the height of Big Ben, was delayed last month when a cable, which was temporarily connecting the central hub of the wheel to the outer part, came loose, causing others to do the same.

Then a socket bracket holding temporary cables which were helping with the lift has to be redesigned and load-tested.

The wheel was finally lifted into place on 17 October, more than a month behind schedule, only to be used as a giant protest platform by demonstrators.

[ image: Each pod will carry 25 people]
Each pod will carry 25 people
Environmental activists, who scaled the structure on Monday morning, spent the night chained to the wheel in a demonstration against dam projects in India and Spain.

The wheel, designed by husband-and-wife team Julia Barfield and David Marks, is set to remain in place for five years. On a clear day, visitors are expected to be able to see seven counties from the wheel.

The fourth-tallest structure in London, the wheel includes a frame from Holland, Italian cables, French capsules, British steel and a Czech spindle.

Passengers will be able to get on and off without it stopping, as it will rotate very slowly. A full trip will take 30 minutes.

BA plans to include local people and others connected with the project in the official opening. The wheel will open to the general public early in January.

It will have the capacity to carry 15,000 visitors a day.

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