In the year that the London Eye—UK’s most popular paid visitor attraction—turns 10, New Delhi is set to host its own iconic observation wheel. At 148ft, the Delhi Eye will be India’s largest wheel. It will open to the public on 26 September.
This mesh of white steel and UFO-like cabins is part of Delhi Rides, which also opens on the same day—a 3.6-acre amusement park that is still under construction in Kalindi Kunj as we visit. The park is situated close to New Delhi’s border with Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana, and hopes to attract visitors from all three areas.
Vertical limit: The Delhi Eye at the Delhi Rides amusement park. Photo: Ankit Agrawal/Mint
Tahir Rana, the director of Delhi Rides, was convinced to go ahead with the Rs17 crore investment at the insistence of his 25-year-old son, Imran Ali Khan, who went on several rides on the London Eye as a student in that city. Rana is expecting 5,000-7,000 visitors daily and is confident of breaking even soon. “We’re hoping that everything will be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games,” he says.
Among the rubble and mounds of cement, the Delhi Eye rises like an out-worldly installation on one edge of the park. As we step gingerly into one of the 36 air-conditioned cabins for a test ride, we’re promised views of city attractions such as the Qutub Minar, the Lotus Temple and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The ride provides a panoramic view of the city. What is most spectacular though is the bird’s-eye view of the Yamuna—the water standing out in the city’s crowded landscape.
A 20-minute ride in which the wheel does three rotations costs Rs250 per person. At 4m per second, the wheel moves slowly enough to accommodate infants as well as the aged.
Each cabin can hold eight people, which makes the total capacity of the wheel 288. The cabins have light and music controls, along with a vent in case passengers feel claustrophobic. Additionally, there’s one VIP cabin with plush red and black couches, an LCD screen and a phone connected to the control room. This privilege will set you back by Rs500.
The giant wheel has been manufactured by the leading Dutch coaster design company Vekoma and will be run by the company that operates the Singapore Flyer, the world’s highest observation wheel.
As we descend, we see representatives from Vekoma instructing local staff on operating the wheel. Padam Kumar Chaudhary, a Dubai-based engineer who is a consultant for the project, addresses our safety concerns by pointing out that all the rides in the park have been certified by TÜV, an international assessment company.
The Delhi Eye is a far cry from its global counterparts—some of which stand at more than three times its height. Still, coming back to earth is disappointing. The distance puts a rose tint on the city. Ground level is a reality check.
GOING HIGHER AND HIGHER
George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr designed and built the first 264ft giant wheel in Chicago, US, in 1893. This first wheel could carry 2,160 people.
In 1999, the creation of the London Eye popularized the concept of a very tall “observation” wheel. It led to a number of other cities (including Belfast, Birmingham, York, Manchester, Kuala Lumpur, Las Vegas, Melbourne, Moscow, Nanchang, Shanghai and Singapore) installing, or proposing to install, similar wheels.
• The current record holder for the world’s tallest Ferris wheel is the Singapore Flyer in Singapore. It is 541ft high and has been in operation since February 2008.
• The Star of Nanchang, in Nanchang, China, previously held the world record (2006-2008). The 525ft-high wheel opened in May 2006.
• The preceding record holder was the London Eye, in London, UK. It is 443ft high and opened in December 1999. It held the record for being the world’s tallest from 1999-2006.