Thursday, 25 August 2016

Brighton's BAi360 experience - minute by minute.

Brighton has a new visitor attraction – the BA i360. At 160 metres high, this vertical cable car (BA’s description) or ‘doughnut on a stick’ (according to some locals) dominates the seafront, right in front of skeletal remains of the city’s much-loved West Pier. The day we were there crowds were clustered around the entrance on the promenade. Some were taking photos as the pod glided up and down, others were queuing for tickets at the restored Victorian kiosk (below) that once marked the entrance of the pier; a handful had just been up and were busy reliving their experience and taking more  photos.
So what's the i360 like? Here’s a minute-by-minute account of our ride.
The 'flights' are every 30 minutes, and as recommended, we arrived half an hour early and had a security check: bag search, and no sharp objects or glass bottles allowed. Once cleared, we went through to the upper deck to wait for boarding and take photos.
I loved the reflections on the underside. (Note: selfie sticks are not allowed in the pod.) The waiting area is open to the elements, but should protection be needed there's the lower, enclosed deck, normally used for disembarking.

1352: As the previous ride nears its end and the pod glides down to the lower level, seating on the upper deck is abandoned as passengers flock towards the entrance gate.
1357: Boarding starts.The queue is very polite - no pushing or shoving.
1400: We're off, and there’s a rush to toast the event with a £10 glass of local sparkling wine.
1405: Looking up. This is where we are heading.
1407: As the sprawl of Brighton to the north becomes visible, the i360 casts its shadow over Regency Square.
1408: You have to lean forward and look directly down for this view of the promenade. The shadow is from the attraction's entrance.
1408: A clear view of Brighton’s railway station at the top of the town. It opened in 1840.
1410: The East Pier and the seafront, where a lot of restoration and upgrading work is taking place
1411: Zooming in on white cliffs and Beachy Head. We are about at the top of the tower.
1413: Looking south, and this is what’s left of the West Pier. By now the descent has begun, but the motion is so gentle you hardly notice.
1414: The view west towards Hove, looking down on the white kiosk that houses security, and the deck where you wait. (It's hard to avoid reflections caused by the sun on the curved glass, but you get better results on the shady side.)
1417: It's suddenly over. We land at the lower level and passengers for the 1430 slot look down as we disembark.
1420: Glancing back, the pod is empty, apart from the bar, where attendants prepare for the next flight. The only seating is round the central core, but most passengers spent their time at the pod's edge, where there is room for up to 200 people. The screen promotes exotic BA holiday destinations.
1421: The gates close and the pod prepares to rise to the upper deck for its next flight.
1424: The exit is through an extensive gift shop (of course) that opens on to the beach. There are lots of tasteful souvenirs with a strong Brighton influence and a restaurant that had yet to open when we visited, but looked promising.
The verdict: Fun, with stunning views that give a new perspective on Brighton, and not at all scarey. A valuable addition to the town's attractions, and a key element in the seafront's ongoing regeneration.

The i360 is open 1000 – 2200 in summer (2000 in winter). Basic adult price is £15, but concessions are available and there are discounts for advance booking. The pod is available for private hire.  

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