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    Design fault to blame for wheel shutdown

    Gemma Battenbough

    It was not extreme heat that halted Melbourne’s $100-million Southern Star Observation Wheel but an inherent design fault, it is revealed today. The wheel, which was shut down just 40 days after it opened, suffered buckling in a bracing member and 14 cracks in one of the steel tubes supporting the wheel, The Age reported. Ninety workers have been offered severance packages since the wheel was closed down.

    The design fault is exposed after Southern Star Management Group announced last month that the closure was due to the extreme heat wave endured by the state. 

    “The excessive heat over the last few days has buckled some bracing members,” Fred Maybury, chairman of the Southern Star Management Group, said. “The wheel has operated successfully and without issue since the 20 December 2008, however a decision has been made not to operate the wheel until a full inspection can be undertaken and rectification work carried out. The wheel will recommence once this issue is resolved,” he said. 

    Yesterday, however, Maybury backtracked on this stance telling The Age that all the heatwave did was “expose the weakness that was going to be exposed in the wheel anyhow”.

    Japanese design corporation Sanoyas Hishino Meisho has agreed to fix the wheel under its warranty. A final report will be presented to the owners and managers of the wheel, ING Real Estate, next month.

    The company is currently sourcing a solution to the damage and is adamant that the wheel will reopen. “This is a complex process as it involves working on a 120-metre high, 1650-tonne steel structure over an existing three-level support building,” it said in a press release. “The wheel will definitely reopen, however preliminary investigations have indicated that works are likely to take at least six months.”

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