BRIGHTON’S newest and most thrilling tourism attraction is up and flying.

The £1.7 million Brighton Zip has begun a soft opening ahead of its full launch at the start of next month.

Staff were testing the 300 metre long zip wire last week before a private party of friends took the plunge on Saturday and a few pioneering paying customers on Sunday.

“Walk-up” customers can ride the attraction this week with online bookings set to be taken for rides from the start of next week.

At £16 a ride or £30 for a dual ride, organisers say the attraction compares favourably with its rivals including the shorter 250 metre zip at Bournemouth Pier, which is £18.

If the predicted visitor numbers of 32,000 are correct, the venue, at the site of the former Brighton Wheel, could make almost £5 million in ticket sales from its first year.

A second attraction, the Drop Zone, allows customers to “enjoy” a straight drop from the platform with the first second creating a sensation of freefall for £8.50.

The opening of the ride has been a victory of persistence for organisers who had originally hoped to open a year earlier.

A planning application submitted in May 2016 was not determined until December which scuppered plans for an opening last summer.

A two-tier 140-cover cafe will now be built on the site over the winter.

The venue’s eye-catching structure, which includes a launch platform shaped like a helter skelter and a boat-shaped landing point further east along the beach, has been going up on Brighton seafront since last month.

General manager Delso De Silva said: “We had a private party for friends of the owners on Saturday and we thought we would open it up and see what happens.

“But then the heavens just opened up and the entire seafront just emptied, no one was around at all.

“It was more bad luck for the whole process really, from delays with the planning application, delays with the fabricators.

“But we opened up again on Sunday and quite a few people came along and now its great that we will be open for all that kids that have broken up from school.

“We are not taking pre-booking for the moment because we want our staff to get used to this bespoke site.

“We don’t want a lot of people coming along and having to queue up because it takes a while to get people properly harnessed and briefed, it is a 20 minute process, it’s not a case of just turning up and taking off.”

Customers will make their own minds up about the attraction in the upcoming months but Mr Da Silva is certainly sold.

He said: “I’ve been down the zip about 20 times already, I love it.

“It was pretty scary the first time especially walking up all the 90 steps to the top and it’s a lot windier at 22 metres up.

“I’ve also done the Drop Zone but only the once.

“I’ve ticked it off my bucket list now but that’s it for that.”

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Reporter Connor Doyle takes a trip on the Brighton Zip

IT BEGAN with a pep talk from the staff. They put me at ease but then the harness went on and the nerves started to tingle.

I began my ascent up the metal spiral staircase and I could see how high I was getting with every step.

My heartrate was already beating quickly at the prospect of jumping from a great height but after climbing up to the 24m high platform it was racing.

I was welcomed on to the platform by staff who attached me to the ropes and I was ready to go.

There I was, 24m high, looking at the ground below and all that was left to do was for me to throw myself off the freefall experience Drop Zone.

1, 2, 3, go…not quite.

I wanted to jump but my mind was asking me, ‘Why?’ I didn’t listen – 1, 2, 3 and I leapt.

The first few moments were scary. You are falling to the ground, then the safety equipment did its job and slowed me down for the landing.

It was over in a flash but it was an exhilarating flash.

I got harnessed again and began my ascent up the stairs once more. This time I would be doing the zip wire.

During my second trip up the stairs I took a moment to assess my surroundings.

I had a wonderful view of Brighton’s seafront, something that really adds to the experience.

This time I was staring into the distance over the beach to the end of the line. My mind again asked me why?

I jumped after the same hesitant pause I had before but I enjoyed this just as much.

The zip is 300m of windswept fun and after I was finished I was eager to have another go.