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ENGINEERS believe they can finally fix the Spinnaker Tower's external glass lift.

The revelation comes 1,587 days after the opening of the tower in October 2005, which saw the panoramic lift get stuck during the opening ceremony.

For almost five years the lift, designed to provide spectacular views to visitors as it rose to the top of the attraction, has stayed shut.

A series of baffled experts has tried to come up with a solution to make it reliable enough to satisfy tower operators Heritage.

Now, following a series of Freedom of Information requests submitted by The News, Portsmouth City Council has said engineers have discovered the problem – and worked out a solution.

But there is still no firm plan in place for when the work will be carried out, or who will pay for it.

The council says it is locked in ongoing discussions with tower builders Carillion, formerly Mowlem, and operators Heritage in a bid to work out who should foot the bill, which could run into millions.

In the meantime they are keeping tight-lipped about the time frame and the costs.

Lib Dem council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'My understanding of the problem is that it has been the reliability – the builders say it is OK and reliable enough, but the operators say it is not.

'We need to make sure everybody agrees that this technical solution is going to make the lift better and more reliable.'

A specialist lift consultant came up with the plan to fix the lift, which will see the control system replaced.

Currently, the lift communicates with the landing stations at either end through a rail which carries power to the car. If the car loses contact with the rail for any reason, such as wind, the lift stops.

A microprocessor system will now be installed, so if the lift loses communication it will still remember which direction it is heading and complete its journey, instead of getting stuck half way up the tower.

Parts of the lift installed by Italian manufacturers Maspero will also be replaced with UK parts to make maintenance easier.

Mike Arthur, deputy head of asset management for the council, said: 'The lift will always break down – all lifts do. But these are things that should considerably improve reliability.'

Cllr Simon Bosher, Conservative spokesman for planning, regeneration and economic development, said: 'The problem is we are five years down the line from the time people were very publicly stuck in the lift, and I think people have lost confidence in it altogether.

'It has been patched up time and time again. I think it has lost credibility.

'Having said that I really hope this isn't another false dawn and something can be done.

'I have been up in the lift and it is fabulous.'