diamond geezer

 Friday, January 23, 2015

Paid £15 and gone up the Orbit yet?

If not, maybe a recent tweak to the ticketing system will help persuade you to visit.

The Orbit opened during the Olympics, and access was only available to people with a ticket to an Olympic event. Going up top was fun, I thought, not least because the view below was of an Olympic Games in full effect, and a buzz of sport and colour.
2012 Admission price: £15

But then the Orbit closed for almost two years while the land below was reconstructed as a park. It reopened last Easter, at the same time as the southern half of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to what I could describe as a volley of indifference. Tourists didn't rush to see the capital from above, and Londoners weren't that keen to view a building site in the East End at close quarters. Plus the Orbit was still an expensive experience. Tickets cost the same as they had during the Olympics, with just £2 off to residents of neighbouring boroughs on production of proof of address.
2014 Admission price: £15
2014 Admission price (local residents): £13

I've been a regular visitor to the Olympic Park since it reopened, but I've never seen the Orbit busy. Indeed I've never seen more than one group of visitors at the ticket office, nor a queue at the entrance, nor a crocodile of people descending the exterior staircase. The gift shop beside the cafe had a tumbleweed feel so was emptied out at the end of the summer and the sale of souvenirs moved elsewhere. Indeed the whole attraction has had the air of white elephant about it - never completely empty, but near enough.

So this year the management have introduced a cut in the Orbit's admission price and an important modification to the terms and conditions. If properly promoted, and especially if you're local, this could be a game-changer.

First of all the bad news - a ticket up the Orbit still costs £15. That's if you turn up at the ticket office on the day, which is of course the case for the vast majority of QEOP visitors. Turn up unplanned on a sunny afternoon and think "ooh, it'd be nice to go up there", and you'll still end up paying full whack.
2015 Admission price: £15
2015 Admission price (local residents*): £13
* Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest

But book online in advance, and now the deal is 20% off. In fact you'll be offered fractionally over 20% off, because the going price is £11.95 rather than the strictly accurate £12. There is a disadvantage to pre-booking, of course, which is that you might plump for a day that turns out to be dull, wet and/or foggy and then get a fairly miserable view. But twelve quid's definitely a better price than fifteen, so might well help to entice more visitors up top. And there's even better news for residents of the six Olympic boroughs who still get their £2 off, if booking by phone, which brings the admission price down below a tenner.
2015 Admission price (booked online in advance): £11.95
2015 Admission price (local residents): £9.95

And yet that's still quite a lot to pay for a view of East London, so it's the second amendment that could make all the difference. In the past your ticket only allowed you up once, but from now on your ticket is automatically an annual pass. You go up first at the time and date stated in your original booking. But then you can come back again, and again, and again, until a full year is up.
2015 Annual pass (booked online in advance): £11.95
2015 Annual pass (local residents): £9.95

I haven't seen the precise terms and conditions to check whether there's a hidden limitation, like only being allowed to go up once a day, or once a week, or whatever. But even if you only choose to come back once, to see a different season of the year or because you're passing through, this cuts the price of an ascent to under six pounds.
2015 Admission price (two visits): £5.98 each

Like I said, I'm local so I find myself in the Olympic Park quite a bit. Normally I walk straight through, or go and explore some other aspect of the landscaped zone, but now I have the option of popping up the Orbit for half an hour if I so desire. I love a good view, especially one that includes the City, Canary Wharf and my house, so the opportunity to treat the Orbit as an almost-free viewing platform really appeals.
2015 Admission price (three visits): £3.98 each
2015 Admission price (four visits): £2.99 each
2015 Admission price (six visits): £1.99 each
2015 Admission price (ten visits): £1.20 each
2015 Admission price (monthly visits): £1.00 each
2015 Admission price (weekly visits): 23p each
2015 Admission price (365 visits): 3p each

Now OK, that list gets rather silly at the end, but you get my point. If you live in East London, and can remember to come back rather than lose your ticket, this is a bargain. If you visit Westfield frequently and fancy a sky-level view and an exhilarating descent before you start shopping, this is a bargain. If you spot an amazing sunset in the offing, or if swirling snow is suddenly forecast, this is a bargain. If you're not one for views and only ever visit places as a one-off, then don't bother. But if you'd like to make Britain's tallest sculpture part of your everyday Olympic legacy, then £11.95 might well be an appealing price to pay, now every Orbit lasts a year.
2015 Admission price (as many times as you like for 365 days): £11.95
(local residents £9.95) (concessions £9.95) (child £5.95)

Orbit tips
Opens at 10am daily, with last entry at 3.30pm (Oct-Mar) or 5.30pm (Apr-Sep)
An obvious one, this, but come on a sunny day, East London's prettier that way.
Come on a sunny morning for the best view of all, with central London lit from the front.
On an early afternoon visits, photos of Docklands will be into the sun.
On a late afternoon visit, photos of Central London will be into the sun.
The view up top isn't 360°, there are restricted views of the northern Park and none of Leyton.
A lot of the views would be a lot better if there wasn't a frame of red bars in front.
The only views that aren't behind glass come immediately after you exit the lift.
Don't be in a rush to move on, you can stay as long as you like on each of the two upper floors.
The floor-to-ceiling curved mirror on the viewing platform is ideal for Facebook selfies.
Don't go down in the lift, take the external walkway, it's not a vertigo-inducing experience.
Check the Orbit's events list for special activities up top, used as visitor-boosters.
The Shard's viewing platform is three times taller, but costs more than twice as much.
My review from Summer 2012 might be a bit out of date, but you'll get the general idea.

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