London Eye capsule taken away as refit starts

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The Independent Online

The first stage of a £12.5 million upgrade for one of Britain's most familiar tourist attractions started today with the removal of the first of the London Eye's 32 capsules.

The 10-tonne capsule was taken down from the 440ft-high Eye on the Thames opposite Westminster and floated down the river to Tilbury Docks in Essex.

The capsule is then being taken by truck to a workshop in Worcester where upgrade work, including the fitting of new heating and ventilation systems and entertainment facilities, will take place.

The capsules will be taken down one a time and transported to Worcester, with a "dummy" unoccupied capsule replacing them. The work is expected to be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

Watch a video of the makeover here

London mayor Boris Johnson said: "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.

"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."

Now owned by Merlin Entertainments Group, the Eye opened in 2000 and welcomes around 3.5 million tourists every year.