Millennium Dome: Predictable journey with Ford escort

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The Independent Online
THE SHOW starts with an assault on the senses. Loud music and banks of screens showing aircraft taking off, cars driving and people running. The noise becomes progressively louder as the sounds of engines, horns and trains braking blend in over the music.

This is the journey zone of the Dome, which was unveiled yesterday. As visitors enter, they are greeted with a series of facts about travel and esoteric thoughts on the subject as well as a history from walking to space missions.

Periscopes allow visitors to sample the personal views about travel and transport from people all around the world.

Visitors move along a narrow ramp with display cases for models of ships and Model T Ford cars (the company has sponsored the zone) on either side. Suspended from the ceiling is a model of Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine, a Formula One car and the Starship Enterprise.

All along the walls are panels of information - one says "a Chinese junk travels at 29mph", another says "we journey to get there", and a third states that "the first mechanical windscreen wipers were invented in 1916".

At the end of the ramp the noise becomes a cacophony and the lights are red and flashing. This is the world approaching gridlock, which apparently first happened in London on 21 April 1997. The overall feeling is of bedlam, information overload and a desire to escape.

Then the visitor reaches the decompression chamber - an empty white room with a calming blue light and a disembodied voice asking people to think about the future of travel.

As with many other zones, the tone is didactic. The central message is that it is up to us to make a difference by conserving energy, using bicycles and developing alternative sources of fuel. There is a series of cars, bikes and buggies for the future - but they are all in glass cases.

The "future of feet" section has bicycles hanging on the wall, a row of trainers and a series of ski boots; yesterday everyone passed straight through to the next area.

In the rail section, visitors can go into the driver's cab, sit at the controls and watch a speeded-up driver's-eye view of a rail journey. Elsewhere the zone deals with water travel, cars and planes.

The final area is the interactive part where visitors can try their hand at traffic management, answer questions on terminals and register their views on the present traffic problems. Only at the end do they reach the fun part, when they can climb into a rally car simulator - made by Ford - and try to beat the day's record.