Faulty Tower; Five Years Late, [Pounds Sterling]11m over Budget - and on the Big Day Its Glass Lift Gets Stuck 100ft Up

Article excerpt

Byline: BILL MOULAND

IT was the moment that celebrated a triumph over adversity - completion of a 560ft sail-shaped edifice promising astonishing views across land and sea.

Originally planned to mark the Millennium, the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth was five years late and [pounds sterling]11million over budget - but at last it was ready for action.

Hundreds watched yesterday as project manager David Greenhalgh proudly led two VIPs into the glass elevator which takes a mere 90 seconds to glide up the tower.

Countdown over, the door slid shut and they had lift-off.

But less than ten seconds later the party shuddered to a halt only 100 feet up.

And there they stayed, feet tapping with embarrassment, as engineers on the end of abseiling ropes tried to work out why what went up wouldn't go further up - or come down. It was an agonising one hour and 40 minutes before the capsule was lowered to the ground and Mr Greenhalgh was freed with his fellow captives John Neal, from developers Mowlem, and the city council's corporate resources director Roger Ching.

Mr Neal claimed 'unusual wind conditions' had caused a fault in the mechanism.

Mr Greenhalgh added: 'It is personally very embarrassing, disappointing and upsetting. We had run the lift continually for 12 hours through the night and then it was just in the final running trials that we had the problem.

'At least it was the three guys involved in the commissioning of the lift who were stuck in it. When it stopped the bottom of my stomach dropped.

'I didn't want it to happen, I hoped it wouldn't happen and we tried to ensure this did not happen. …