Olympic Park's Orbit tower costing taxpayer £10,000 a week

Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Park’s Orbit tower is losing money and costing Londoners £10,000 a week, a senior Labour member of the London assembly has said.

Len Duvall, member for Greenwich and Lewisham, claimed that the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower had lost £520,000 – or £10,000 a week – based on its 2014/15 report, despite having forecast a profit of almost £1.2m in its business plan.

The attraction, however, has lost around half a million pounds after only 124,000 people visited between April 2014 and March 2015, Duvall found in his analysis of costings.

Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture at 114.5 metres, and which has two observation platforms, was expected to generate a profit of almost £1.2m during its first 12 months.

Annual forecasts for the sculpture, designed by Sir Anish Kapoor, have been cut from 350,000 to 150,000 visitors.

The sculpture, which resembles a helter skelter, was commissioned by mayor Boris Johnson in 2008 with £3.1m of taxpayers’ money invested in its construction.

The designers had compared their creation with the Tower of Babel, as painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder – which depicted a tower spiralling towards heaven from a bulging base on Earth, built by humans who were united and monolingual.

Duvall, however, described it as a “Boris Johnson vanity project of towering proportions”. “Instead of paying back some of the three million [pounds] of taxpayer investment, the Orbit is actually losing £10,000 a week, an awful record even by Boris’s standards.

“The Olympics was meant to be a grand celebration of sport, not an excuse to build pointless monuments at vast taxpayer expense,” Duvall said.

He added: “When you look at the Mayor’s record on projects like this, it makes you wonder whether other projects like the garden bridge are really as good a deal as he would have us believe.”

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which oversees regeneration of the 2012 Games site, claims another 76,000 visitors have been to the installation since March this year.

“The ArcelorMittal Orbit was one of the standout successes of the 2012 Games and has seen almost 200,000 visitors since reopening in 2014, which is a tremendous achievement,” a spokesman said.

Visitors have abseiled from the top of the red sculpture, the spokesman said, while plans for the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide were approved this summer, with construction expected to finish in 2016.

The LLDC had revised its estimate of visitor numbers down from its original forecast of 350,000 a year to 150,000, but said it was “constantly looking at ways to enhance the experience to attract more people”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Aisha Gani, for The Guardian on Tuesday 20th October 2015 19.17 Europe/London

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