SCOTLAND’S 200ft-high answer to the London Eye could be in place as early as next month, it has been revealed.
The giant wheel is set to be constructed in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, and could carry more than a third of a million people a year.
The 60-metre high “observation wheel” is a bid to help traders whose businesses have been hit by the tram works.
Passenger pods, similar to those on the London Eye, are expected to take more than 1000 people a day on a 15 minute trip above the capital.
The big wheel will be built and operated by private firm Great City Attractions (GCA) between April and October.
Council bosses hope the project will create around 40 jobs and result in £1.4million being spent in local businesses.
The price of the attraction has been provisionally set at £6.75 for three rotations, making it cheaper than other rides operated by GCA, which charges £8.50 for the Wheel of York.
Council deputy leader Steve Cardownie said moving the wheel from its original planned site in East Princes Street Gardens was intended to help businesses in the West End.
He said: “This option is an improvement on the original idea to bring the wheel to East Princes Street Gardens. We didn’t feel the original was obtrusive but this is even less so and West Princes Street Gardens has a history of having hosted successful events.
“Its location doesn’t obscure views of the castle and it will bring a much welcome increase in pedestrian traffic for traders in the West End whose businesses have suffered as a result of the tram works.”
Mr Cardownie also hit out at heritage groups for branding the attraction as a cheap fairground ferris wheel.
He said: “I would like to stress this is not, as some ill-informed critics would have it, a fairground. It is an observation wheel, a 15-minute experience where historic landmarks will be pointed out to visitors during an audio tour, and we are delighted to see this come to our city.”
While the number and size of the capsules on the wheel are still to be confirmed, its thought that there could be either 21 or 42, including a special VIP pod.
It’s hoped that the big wheel will encourage visitors arriving in the city by train to get off at Haymarket and use facilities in the West End.
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Traders Association, said the arrival of the attraction would bring more visitors.
He said: “If this animates the city and brings customers and visitors it’s most welcome. It’s pleasing to see that the west end of the gardens is being used for this kind of activity.
“The concentration of events in East Princes Street Gardens over the last decade, the German market and Edinburgh Sparkles for example, has been to the detriment of all other parts of town,
“I’m sure some of those visiting the wheel will come and circulate in the bars and restaurants of the West End.
“Anything to help people circulate around the city is helpful.”
Councillors will have to approve planning permission before April so the wheel can go ahead.