Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 10:32 UK

London Eye's 12.5m refit begins

Workers take down a pod from the London Eye

London Eye pods removed for refit

The £12.5m upgrade of the London Eye has begun with the removal of the first of its 32 capsules.

The 10-tonne capsule was taken down from the 440ft (134m) high wheel on the South Bank and floated down the river to Tilbury Docks in Essex.

The pod will be taken to Worcester where new heating and ventilation systems and entertainment facilities, will be installed.

The work is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

'Dramatic work'

A temporary capsule, which does not carry visitors, will be used to replace each one while it is being worked on.

The owner said the attraction would remain open as normal during the work, with capsules being upgraded one at a time.

Ceiling-mounted TV screens and better wi-fi are also being installed.

The capusle is take down the Thames
Each capsule will be floated down the Thames to Tilbury Docks

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "Our city has an unrivalled range of unique attractions that draw people from across the world and the much-loved London Eye is one of the most recognisable.

"This investment is fantastic news and underlines the commitment there is to ensuring the capital will be at its best and ready to welcome record numbers of visitors when we host the 2012 Games."

Now owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, the Eye opened in 2000 and welcomes around 3.5 million tourists every year.

David Sharpe of Merlin Entertainments Group, said: "It's fantastic to now have this very exciting project underway following not just months, but years of very careful planning.

"Already we've seen some really dramatic work underway, with the removal of the first capsule last night and positioning of the replica capsule in its place.

"No doubt Londoners will be very intrigued to see capsules floating down the Thames again."

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