Wheel deal with eye on London

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 1.06.11

Mamata Banerjee’s ambition of turning Calcutta into London has come a Ferris wheel circle with the government eyeing the landmark London Eye as the model for a Rs 100-crore revolving showpiece on the city’s riverbank.

“Why can’t Calcutta become London?” the chief minister demanded when a reporter asked her on Tuesday evening whether her pre-poll promise was practical.

Mamata had gone into a huddle with her team earlier in the day to discuss how to beautify the city’s riverfront. London Eye, the meeting decided, could be replicated on a 5-acre plot in the Doighat-Kashi Mitra Ghat stretch.

“If found viable, the project will be executed by a private agency. The giant Ferris wheel could be called the Calcutta Eye,” a senior official of the urban affairs department said.

London Eye is Europe’s largest Ferris wheel and one of Britain’s most-visited tourist sites, though some Londoners regard it an eyesore. The giant wheel on the bank of the Thames offers a panoramic view of the city from its 32 passenger capsules, which move so slowly (26cm per second) that people can get off at the ground level without the motor stopping, just like tram passengers do in Calcutta.

But will the city be able to afford a joyride on a Rs 100-crore wheel? “A ticket for a ride on the London Eye or the Singapore Flyer (a similar tourist attraction) costs around Rs 1,500. We will try to make Calcutta Eye easier on the pocket,” the official said.

Project Calcutta Eye was among several discussed at Tuesday’s meeting on riverfront beautification. Union minister of state Mukul Roy, now in charge of railways, state urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim and mayor Sovan Chatterjee attended the meeting.

A committee headed by chief secretary Samar Ghosh will supervise the Rs 450-crore beautification project, including plans to “renovate and decorate” the 10km stretch along the river over a period of one year, starting 2012.

The railway organisation RITES has been asked to prepare a project report by June 30. Mamata will monitor the project once a month.