The first capsule was removed on June 25 as part of a £12 million upgrade to the London Eye, the UK’s number one paid-for visitor attraction. Since it opened in 2000, the world-famous observation wheel has welcomed over 33 million visitors, and Merlin now wants to “future proof” it and maintain its position on London’s Southbank for many years to come.
By removing and upgrading each of the 32 capsules one by one, the upgrade will improve the ride’s functionality, capabilities and longevity. Indeed, this significant investment programme should mean no major maintenance will be necessary on the capsules for the next 15 to 20 years. Work will be completed in time for the London 2012 Olympics, and will not interrupt normal operation of the attraction.
Planning began in 2005, following the removal and thorough analysis of a capsule to examine the effects of five years’ almost continuous business (the Eye closes for a short each maintenance period each January). A number of upgrades will be made to each capsule in addition to a minor visual facelift.
As a direct result of customer feedback, the existing heating and ventilation system will be upgraded to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. One “advanced” capsule will include four ceiling mounted screens and enhanced multi-media and wifi capabilities enabling music and on-screen visuals.
As each capsule is removed from the Eye, it will be sailed down the River Thames to Silvertown in London’s docklands where it will be loaded onto a truck and transported to a workshop in Worcester ready for the upgrade. A non-operational capsule will be installed in its place while the original capsule is being worked on.
“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,” remarks Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. “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.’
“Investments like these are very important in the leisure and tourism industry in the UK as a whole, especially with the Olympics coming to London in 2012,” remarks Merlin’s London director of ‘midway’ attractions, David Sharpe. “It is important to remind people of all the exciting things there are to see and do not only in the capital, but the country as a whole.”