Millennium experience may cost visitors pounds 17.50

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The entrance fee for the Millennium dome could be pounds 17.50 a head, Peter Mandelson said yesterday as he defended the project against abuse from a stream of callers in a live radio phone-in show.

The Minister without Portfolio, who was highly influential in rescuing the Millennium Experience from being abandoned, said on BBC Radio 5 Live the entrance charge would be similar to the pounds 17.50 entrance fee for Alton Towers.

"Although the entry price has not been fixed, it will be no more than the average for any other attraction of its kind throughout the country. Alton Towers is pounds 17.50, off the top of my head. In that region, if we are projecting an entry price for the year 2000 you can see what region it will be ... once you are there, you will not pay any additional sum in order to travel to different parts of the exhibition."

He told a doubting caller from his own constituency, that the people of Hartlepool would go to see the dome, and that it would be built within budget.

"You must be talking to the middle class people, not the working class," said the caller. "It's got nothing to do with the people in your constituency. They won't travel to it."

"We'll see about that," Mr Mandelson said. "What I find overwhelmingly is that people want together and celebrate our history for the millennium."