New Year's Eve: Stay away from central London unless you have fireworks ticket, advise police

100,000 paid £10 each to be near the fireworks - but everyone else told to avoid large areas near the Thames

Jamie Merrill
Tuesday 30 December 2014 15:13
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London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is being ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is being ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head

Police have warned party goers to avoid large swathes of central London on Thursday night unless they have a ticket to the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The warning from the Metropolitan Police came as a massive operation got underway to ensure the capital is ready for its first ticketed fireworks display to see in the New Year.

Traditionally the yearly event has been free to the public, but controversially this year’s display is a ticket-only event following fears of over-crowding in recent years.

Some 100,000 people have paid £10 each for a ticket to the display along the River Thames compared to the estimated 500,000 people who tried to attend last year, many of whom who were turned away by police amid security and safety fears.

31 December 2012: Crowds on Westminster Bridge in central London as they wait for the New Year's Eve fireworks

Those without tickets will be denied entry to the display at safety barriers covering the view area from Westminster Bridge on the north embankment of the Thames between Westminster and Waterloo bridges and on the Southbank behind the London Eye. Unlike previous years there will not be large viewing screen at Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square.

Around 4,200 police officers will be on duty across the capital, with some officers watching the crowds from podiums, while London Ambulance Service is preparing for its busiest night of the year with up to more than 350 additional calls an hour expected. It has also set up five so-called “booze buses” across the capital to avoid admitting inebriated party goers to stretched accident and emergency units.

The Met police spokesman for the event, Superintendent Robyn Williams, said: “Our advice is not to travel into London if you don’t have a ticket. If people are still considering coming to see the fireworks it will be extremely difficult to get around. Areas will be cordoned off for those with tickets and Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square will not this year be featuring large viewing screens.”

The operation to prepare the display is massive in scale with 85 bodies involved in planning, a crew of more than 300 staff setting off the fireworks and 3,000 stewards deployed for crowd control.

Opposition members of the London Assembly have previously attacked the ticketing event, saying the fireworks “should be accessible to all”, but the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said no profit would be made by the event. He said: “It is a spectacular show enjoyed by people up and down the country and around the world and we have brought in ticketing to ensure crowd safety on the night and the event's future sustainability.

“For anyone without a ticket, there are plenty of other celebrations taking place across the city and we are urging them to avoid the area.”

Elsewhere in the county, in Manchester the city’s celebrations have had to be hastily relocated after a local Primark refused permission for the council display to be let off from the shop’s roof, according to the Manchester Evening News. Dubbed the “best party in town” by council leaders it will see 15,000 party goers flock to the big wheel in the centre of the city for the display. Organisers have warned residents to wrap up warm following a Met Office forecast for freezing temperatures and heavy rain showers. Wales and part of the west of England can expect rain showers tonight, while elsewhere in the country cold but clear conditions are expected.

In Scotland organisers of the Hogmanay festival in Edinburgh made a last-minute plea for party goers to buy their tickets early to avoid queues to the city’s world-famous street party on the Royal Mile. Tickets are still available for the street party and are still available in limited number for the concert in the gardens.

Celebrations around the UK

Belfast

Unlike most major British cities Belfast will see in the New Year with a whimper after city leaders said the economic climate and lack of public demand meant they had no plans for official celebrations.

Cardiff

Make for Cathays Park for Cardiff’s Calennig Midnight celebrations. There’s a a winter wonderland party, live music, mulled wine and a spectacular midnight firework finale to bring in 2015. christmasincardiff.com

Newcastle

Tonight sees the end of the Gateshead Winter Festival which sees the city transformed with a carnival on the Tyne Bridge and of course, an explosive fireworks display. newcastlegateshead.com

Edinburgh

You need two or three days to do Hogmanay properly, but for late-comers there are still some tickets available for Edinburgh’s famous celebration. Wrap up warm and be prepared to see the whole city go crazy at midnight. edinburghshogmanay.com

Manchester

There was a period from 2000 to 2009 that Manchester failed to put on any kind of New Year Eve’s show. Thankfully it’s got well and truly back in the act with a an excellent city-centre fireworks display – best viewed from the Exchange Square.

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