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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Mayor opens space age pier
The pier
The Millbank Millennium Pier cost 1.8m
A space-age steel pier to house a new river service linking the two Tate galleries was opened on Thursday.

Mayor Ken Livingstone and artist Damien Hirst, who has designed artwork covering the new boats, unveiled the 1.8m Millbank Millennium Pier.

A modern steel structure complete with a pontoon and roof, the pier was floated up the Thames in April to a site in front of the Tate Britain.

It was designed by the architects behind the London Eye and includes a lighting scheme with colours which change with the tide and 60 sparkling lights.

It will house the new river-boat shuttle service for visitors travelling between Tate Britain and Tate Modern which starts running on Friday.

The Tate to Tate boat
It is not art, it is a boat with spots painted on it
Damian Hirst

The service also calls at Waterloo pier, near the London Eye, and the Saatchi Gallery, during the 18 minute journey.

Graham Elliott, of London River Services, said the "stunning design" of the pier was right for the prestigious location.

He added the river service would help art lovers who want to enjoy both galleries.

"Travelling between the two galleries on public transport is not a particularly easy journey so people will benefit from that, equally they will get the benefits of travelling on the river which is a great experience," said Mr Elliott.

Mr Hirst said of the 2m catamaran, which is covered in his trademark spots: "It is not art, it is a boat with spots painted on it.

Online tickets

"It is a bit of fun."

The service will run at 20 minute intervals from 1000 BST to 1718 BST.

The boats can hold 220 people and have a top speed of 27 knots.

Tickets are available from the two Tate galleries and online at Tate and London Eye - Travelcard holders get a discount.

BBC London's Sarah Harris
"It's the fastest boat on the river"

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