Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Belfast park charges for Titanic dry dock visit

The Thompson dry dock
Hundreds of tourists visit the dry dock on bus and coach tours

Tour bus and coach operators taking visitors to see the birthplace of the Titanic are to be charged £50 to view the attraction.

The Thompson dry dock is a popular stop-off point for sight-seeing bus tours of Belfast.

Hundreds of people visit the site to have their pictures taken at an authentic Titanic attraction.

The charges are being brought in by the Northern Ireland Science Park, which owns the dock.

They have decided to install entry barriers at the entrance to the attraction. As well as charging the tour buses, visitors in cars or taxis will also be charged for parking for the first time.

Visitors can avoid the charges if they pre-book and pay for tours of the site or spend money in a nearby visitors centre.

Opened by Belfast Harbour Commissioners in 1911, the 850ft long Thompson Dry Dock was the largest in the world at the time, taking up to 500 men more than five years to build at a cost in today's money of £50m.

It was used to check and paint the Titanic's hull, fit the propellers into position, install the boilers and apply some of the final fixtures and fittings.

It was named after the chairman of the commission at the time, Robert Thompson, the dock could be drained of its 24m imperial gallons of water in 100 minutes using the huge pumps in the adjacent pump house.

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