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London Wheel deal rolls into sight

THE RACE is narrowing for a prize steel contract to build the world's biggest ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames in London.

About 100 construction jobs will be created over the 18-month build period.

The firms left in the race are Bolton-based Watson Steel, Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge and Japanese outfit Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Among the bidders which priced the job but missed out are Netherlands firm Ballast Nedam and another Dutch-owned company, Nuttall.

A decision is due by February and work is expected to start the following month at the Jubilee Gardens site in Lambeth.

The client is the Millennium Wheel Company, which is bankrolling the project in a joint venture with British Airways.

Architectural practice David Marks Julia Barfield (DMJB) designed the scheme and priced the deal at £10 million on launching the proposal last October.

This figure has since risen, but Julia Barfield of DMJB declined to name the current price.

However, Ms Barfield said: 'The winner will build the three main elements to

the wheel: the steel structure; the capsules for the passengers; and the boarding platform.'

The project also includes landscaping at Jubilee Gardens and building a ticket booth at County Hall which overlooks the site. These elements may be let as separate contracts.

'We haven't decided exactly what we will do about the ticket booth and landscaping,' Ms Barfield added.

The scheme sailed through Lambeth Council's planning committee with few objections and will remain at the site for five years.

A permanent home for the 150 m-diameter wheel has not been found.