Ticket system introduced for ground zero visitors

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The Independent US

Visitors to New York's newest tourist destination, ground zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Centre stood, now have the benefit of four raised platforms for a better view. From yesterday, however, they were obliged to queue for tickets to gain access to the viewing stands.

While the new arrangement makes the experience not much different from taking a Disney ride, though the tickets are free, officials defended it as a necessary step to control the crowds. The ticket comes with a time slot when you climb on to the platforms and sets a 30-minute limit.

Since the platforms went up two weeks ago, people have been streaming down to the old World Trade Centre site in such numbers that many have had to wait five hours before getting a view. The scrum of tourists has hardly made for a tranquil paying of respects to the nearly 3,000 people who died when two hijacked jetliners crashed into the towers on 11 September.

Michael Bloomberg, New York's Mayor, said: "There were just too many people. They were standing there shivering cold. This way they don't have to wait, they can go get the ticket. I'm just trying to do something that will make it easier for people who want to pay their respects to be able to do so."

Until the platforms were installed, the curious were forced to circulate around the enormous site and seek out gaps in the green screens that officials had thrown up precisely to stop people gawking. Sometimes that meant climbing on scaffolding or balancing on rubbish bins to see over the fences.

Not that there is so much to see any more. Since the last section of the outer skeleton of one of the towers was brought down before Christmas, the site has been levelled and most of the activity now is happening below ground level.