Video: Sheffield's big wheel ready to roll a week early

THE first passengers are expected to take to the skies on Yorkshire's latest "big wheel" today after engineers completed the massive structure in Sheffield city centre.

The Wheel of Sheffield has been put up by World Tourist Attractions (WTA), the company that was behind a similar structure at York's National Railway Museum (NRM).

An official launch ceremony is planned for the 197ft-high attraction on Thursday, July 30, but WTA said it was likely that visitors would be allowed onto the wheel before then.

A WTA spokesman said: "Visitors to the wheel will receive a brief introduction to the facilities available, then enter one of the 42 fully enclosed, climate controlled capsules before being gently lifted to a height of almost 60 metres for spectacular panoramic views of the city and beyond.

"Lasting approximately 13 minutes, the wheel experience also features a commentary pointing out local landmarks and places of interest."

A VIP capsule with DVD player, glass floor and champagne on ice is also available.

City council leaders hope the wheel will attract more visitors to Sheffield, which is currently suffering from a drop in trade after part of the shopping centre was left derelict when a re-development project stalled in the economic downturn.

WTA is part of the international company Great City Attractions. WTA operates four similar wheels in Britain, in Manchester, Weston-super-Mare, Windsor and Belfast.

The York wheel at the NRM has been removed, and plans to install a replacement attraction on the St George's Street car park close to Clifford's Tower have provoked widespread opposition.

The Wheel of Sheffield will operate seven days a week and will be open 10am to 11pm Sunday to Thursday, 10am to midnight on Fridays and 9am to midnight on Saturdays. Tickets will cost 6.50, although discounts are available.