MILLENNIUM COUNTDOWN: Dome errors leave thousands without tickets

THOUSANDS OF people who were asked to join the celebrations at the Millennium Dome this evening have not yet received their tickets.

Instead of "One Amazing Night", which the invitation of the century promised, thousands of the guests will instead spend part of the last evening of the century in one amazing queue.

More than 10,000 people, including the Queen and Tony Blair, will attend the party tonight but before they can get in at least 3,000 people will have to line up at nearby stations to collect their passes. The glossy invitation packages had promised that everyone would receive their tickets before Christmas but administrative problems meant that many were not sent out in time.

Marine Grove, 64, from Ashford in Kent, said: "We were told we would get our tickets by 17 December. Then we were told we should ring an advice line but it was impossible to get through." She said that finally two tickets had arrived but there was nothing for herdaughter, who, she said, "broke down in tears".

A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company said yesterday that 3,000 tickets were sent shortly before Christmas and a further 4,500 had since been sent by registered post. He admitted that the remaining 3,000 guests would have to queue at either Stratford station in east London or Charlton station in south London.

"We have very good clearance facilities and we expect it to be very swift," he said. "Those 3,000 passes consist of 750 family groups and we have phoned one person from each group to explain the situation to them, so there will not be a problem."

Guests attending the event were required to fill in a 35-question form and send in two passport-size photographs but the spokesman said that the procedure had taken longer than expected.

"It had been our intention that people should receive their tickets through the post to their homes in the week before Christmas but the security clearance took longer than we expected and hundreds of people did not return their forms by the deadline. We had to divert staff from dealing with the tickets to chasing these people and that caused the delay," he said. Extra staff would be on hand at both stations to ensure the smooth handover of tickets.

For those who do make it to their New Year's Eve party and have to face the journey home with a hangover of millennial proportions, one rail operator is offering a special hangover cure for passengers.

GNER, which operates rail services between Scotland, North-east England and London, has decided to help people cope with the morning after. The company's trains, which will start running from Edinburgh at 2pm on New Year's Day, will be stocked up with cans of Irn-Bru. A GNER spokesmen said: "Irn-Bru is well known as the fastest hangover cure and we are delighted to introduce it on our Anglo-Scottish trains so we can not only get people home but also get them on the way to feeling human again."

However, fears of the much-hyped millennium bug have meant that many people are staying in and celebrating the passing of the 20th century at home with friends.

Supermarkets said yesterday that thousands of people have stocked up for a weekend of drinking and safe sex followed by a cooked breakfast. Sales of condoms, alcohol and bacon and eggs were high as people prepared for another long bank holiday weekend.

A spokesman for Tesco said sales of condoms were 15 per cent higher than this time last year. "People are taking a very long holiday this year and obviously there are a lot of very hopeful men out there."

Asda said it had sold twice as many condoms as last year and four times as many hangover remedies. Sainsbury's reported selling 600 per cent more hangover cures and 140 per cent more wine and spirits.

There has also been an increase in the sale of disposable cameras, candles and batteries. But there are still some practical souls out there. Sainsbury's reported a significant increase in the sale of dustbin liners and rubber gloves.