United Kingdom (Abbreviation: AT)
Merlin Entertainment Group
Park News - (3/20/16) Apparently last year's accident on The Smiler did little to persuade customers to stay away from the ride this year, as theme park visitors packed the ride's queue to the limit first thing on Saturday morning to get a chance to ride the newly re-opened coaster once again. Follow the link to a local news article all about it with tons of pictures.
(3/1/16) The official word from Alton Towers is that The Smiler coaster will reopen again with the rest of the park for the 2016 season on Saturday, March 19th.
(2/27/16) Alton Towers has confirmed that they will be removing Ripsaw (Top Spin) and their The Flume attractions on their blog, as they have plans to redevelop these areas in the future. They also shared a picture of an extensive repainting they have done to Nemesis for this year as well as announcing that Galactica will open to guests on March 24th.
(12/30/15) While no photos were sent, a reader reported in from Alton Towers this week that the park’s Ripsaw flat ride has been taken apart, and the pieces laid out in the nearby parking lot.
2016 - Galactica and Rollercoaster Restaurant - (3/21/16) Wired has posted a video showing off the new Galactica VR Coaster experience at Alton Towers for the first time, which gives us our first look at some of the actual VR footage being shown to riders.
A reader sent in a picture from Alton Towers this weekend showing off the arrival of some new thematic elements for the 2016 Galactica coaster experience.
(1/13/16) Alton Towers has announced Galactica, the new name for the coaster formerly known as Air. What is different this time is that the ride is themed as an intergalactic tourism company and riders will wear VR headgear during their ride experience as they pass through a wormhole portal and see three wonders of the galaxy: the clouds of the Great Orion Nebula, lava lakes on Nero 5 and the frozen world of Kepler 9. All the while your flight will be guided by Eve, an artificial intelligence system.
One odd thing though. Take a look at the "About Galactica" page and look at the picture of the "Launch Portal". I find it a bit odd that they would promote something called a "Launch Portal" on a coaster that normally does not include any kind of Launch elements... or will it? Hmmm....
On another note... it looks like Alton Towers will still be in "recovery" mode, as I've been told that 2016 park schedule is a bit lighter than before, with the park closed on several Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the slower seasons.
(1/5/16) While Alton Towers didn't announce any new details about what is happening to their AIR coaster in 2016 yet, they did announce a new eatery called the Rollercoaster Restaurant. The new coaster themed restaurant will open in May 2015 and allow diners to under their food, which will be delivered on a coaster style track that will include a pair of loops before spiraling down to their table. If this sounds slightly familiar, it should, as there are several similar concepts in operation in Europe and beyond, including the popular Food Loop restaurant within Europa Park in Germany as well as Rogo's in Dubai that opened in late 2014. (See video below)
Meanwhile the park did release a new teaser video however about the Jan. 12th announcement regarding air that once again seems to hint that the coaster will have a new SPACE theme. The teaser video reminds us that "In space you can't hear yourself scream because there is AIR." Subtle? Not so much... but can't wait to see what the final announcement will be.
(12/28/15) I’m told that Alton Towers will announce the details of their new 2016 attraction (the enhanced version of AIR) on January 12 at 8:30am at the London Science Museum. According to some of the latest rumors, the new version of AIR may feature a “space” theme instead.
(12/22/15) Alton Towers says they are currently preparing to an "out of this world" season in 2016, that will see the launch of two brand new items... a new "ground-breaking ride experience", and "a very unique restaurant". In addition the park will open a new coffee shop and offer new entertainment experiences as well in 2016.
As for the new ride... there is a graphic on their blog that says "In 2016 the future is here... prepare for a new flight", which again, seems to hint that AIR will be rebranded as some kind of new experience.
(12/7/15) While Alton Towers has yet to come clean on just what their plans for the AIR coaster are, guests to the park report that teaser banners are up around the park telling them to come back in 2016 for the "new flight". Plus all the current AIR merchandise is said to be selling at discount rates, so it does sound like AIR may be renamed next year, or at least get a modified name.
(10/26/15) So what is Alton Towers up to for 2016? Looks like they've launched a teaser website already that says, "In 2016 the future is here...prepare for a new flight". With that and in mind and the requested changes said to be on the way to the park's AIR coaster (B&M Flyer), I'm guessing they'll try to re-launch AIR as a new experience somehow in 2016.
(8/6/15) I'm told that Alton Towers has submitted plans to enhance their AIR coaster's station and queue by adding a pre-show area, photo kiosk and various new themeing elements to the area around the coaster.
2017/2018 - SW8 Coaster - Developmnet - (6/3/16) Alton Towers has submitted plans a number of plans for SW8 to the government. You can see the layout if you follow this link and click on the link labeled "Proposed Block Plan" and "Proposed Site Plan". The second one is little closer-up and you can see a section of the track (the first drop I assume) will be enclosed in a "Sound Tunnel" which should keep the neighbors happy as well as provide a little more excitement by dropping in darkness. You can also see the shape of some of the themed station building if you click on Section Plan AA BB Proposed and Section Plan CC DD Proposed.
Layout plans were sent into Screamscape that show off what seems to be the new SW8 coaster layout. The station building appears to feature a U shape to it, with what looks like a brake-run / transfer track on top, then taking a U-turn back to the load/unload station area. Leaving the station it passes through a red structure labeled "Preshow?" before hitting the lift hill. There is some speculation that instead of a regular lift hill the coaster may try to feature an inclined launch hill instead, much like Lightning Rod at Dollywood.
From the top, it appears as if it will turn around again before taking the first drop which will pass through the lift hill structure before entering a series of twists and turns that does give the ride a very classic GCI style look to it before hitting the brakes and returning to the station.
(3/31/16) The teasers have begun for Alton Towers to develop their next "Secret Weapon" attraction... SW8 for either 2017 or 2018. SW8 teaser banners are already up inside the park as you can see here.
(7/15/15) According to a trusted source, a wood coaster was in the works for 2017... but not from Intamin. The problem is, our source also confirmed that whatever Alton Tower had in the works for 2017 has likely been put on hold at this point... and may never come to be as they deal with the fallout from The Smiler accident. We'll just have to wait and see.
(5/2/15) According to the latest rumor sent my way about Alton Tower’s SW8 project, our source backs up that it will be an wooden coaster, but also claims that it may be a “launched” coaster as well, though they insist that RMC is not involved in this project as well. Very interesting…
(4/29/15) Is Alton Towers preparing to build a new wooden coaster? According to ThemeParks-UK, the park has submitted documents to the planning authority for a new attraction that would feature "timber truss construction set within a wooden backdrop and foreground". The plans also mention that the ride would have a maximum height of 14.5m above existing ground levels, and one of more of the high points in the ride would be enclosed within a "sound tunnel" to keep the noise levels down. Looks like SW8 is planned to open in 2017 if all goes well.
(3/31/15) The latest buzz says Alton Tower's next big coaster is expected to open around either 2016 or 2017. Many still believe it will go into the Forbidden Valley area, possibly behind Air on the site of a current parking lot.
(10/9/14) According to a Screamscape reader, Ripsaw at Alton Towers will be taken down and moved across the park to reopen in the X-Sector in 2015 on the former Submission spot. The fast food building next to Ripsaw is said to have already been gutted and is ready for demolition as well. This would open up this entire side of the Forbidden Valley (from Air down along the valley edge) for future new developments.
Future Plans - (7/14/15) According to one rumor sent in, which I caution you to only take as a rumor at this point, and nothing factual, Alton Tower's future plans may have included a two-ride project from Intamin, starting with a new wooden coaster that could open as early as 2017 and to be followed by a new flume ride on the site of Mutiny Bay.
At this point however, plans or no plans, given the state of things following The Smiler accident, I'd say any and all plans could be on hold at this point, or even cancelled, while they put their entire operations under review.
The Smiler Accident Reports -
(4/26/16) According to various news articles, Alton Towers has admitted that the park was at fault for the accident on The Smiler coaster, and has even released a photo of the train car, where you can see how the front of the car crushed in against where the rider's legs were.
(2/26/16) According to the latest news reports the owners of Alton Towers will be prosecuted for violations of the "Health and Safety at Work Act 1974" in regards to last year's accident on The Smiler coaster. According to a head of the Health & Safety Executive, "We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."
(11/26/15) Following along with the leaked results from a couple of months back, Alton Towers has confirmed that the crash on The Smiler coaster was caused by humor error, " culminating in the manual override of the ride safety control system without the appropriate protocols being followed." As the rest of the ride was determined to be safe and sound, and that the safety system did what it was supposed to do by shutting down the ride until it was over-riden by human error, it was also announced that The Smiler will reopen in 2016. When it does reopen however, it will include new safety measures in place, better monitoring of the track, and a new safety procedure that will not allow a manual override to take place unless authorized by a senior staff member. In the meantime, there are also several reports out there about how the park/resort is likely to cut up to 190 salaried jobs soon to make up for the financial loses they've experienced this year following the Smiler accident.
(8/25/15) As I expected to be the case, an article from a UK news source seems to confirm that the accident earlier this summer on The Smiler at Alton Towers was caused by human error. They say that the safety systems were working correctly when the ride stopped the car with passengers on the lift hill when it detected the empty car stalled on the tracks. A park engineer put the ride into an overide mode and restarted it, causing the collision.
(6/27/15) More horrible news has come from the fallout of the Smiler coaster crash this afternoon, as the local news reports that a second rider involved in The Smiler crash has been forced to have a leg amputated. This one has been identified as Vicky Balch, who was forced to have one leg amputated just below the knee following a series of seven unsuccessful surgeries so far that attempted to save it.
She is the second of the four riders from the front row to have a leg amputated, while the other two (male) victims have suffered from shattered kneecaps for one and the other from a fractured leg and collapsed lung.
(6/9/15) This news article at BT.com has confirmed that 17-year old Leah Washington was the most seriously injured of the four victims and had to have her left leg amputated just above the knee.
(6/6/15) According to a press release from Merlin Entertainment, they are "enhancing our safety standards by issuing an additional set of safety protocols and proceedures" to the chain of parks "multi-car rollercoasters" effective immediately. While they put these new procedures into effect, several of the chains coasters will be closed: The Smiler at Alton Towers and Saw: The Ride at Thorpe Park remain closed until further notice while they take the corrective steps to ensure that another accident like the one at Alton Towers on The Smiler can never take place again. Nothing was wrong with Saw: The Ride, it was just a similar style ride from the same manufacture.
Two more coaster will be closed for the time being from Chessington World of Adventures: Dragon's Fury and Rattlesnake.
(6/4/15) Alton Towers theme park remains closed today and says they will stay closed until they determine the cause of the accident on The Smiler on Tuesday. While the latest batch of news articles do not say why the accident happened, a few more details have been uncovered.
According to the report on The Telegraph, the park’s management is said to be considering “scrapping” the troubled coaster following the incident.
The Smiler has been suffering from some severe issues on both the day of the crash as well as the day before. The coaster had been reported as opening and closing several times throughout the day before the crash took place shortly after 2pm, and was in the process of reopening from one of these shut-downs at the time of the incident, which is why the empty test train was sent out onto the tracks.
According to an interview with one of the riders (Vanisha Singh) who was on the second row of the train at the time of the accident, the ill-fated car did indeed get stopped near the top of the first lift hill before the lift was restarted, sending the train down the hill and into the stalled empty train. “We finally went up and were kept at the top for ten or fifteen minutes chatting, joking that we were the guinea pigs. Then we plummeted down and smashed into the test car after doing a couple of loops.”
She also described the scene on board the train following the impact as something out of a horror movie, with “blood all over the floor because it was pouring out of their legs in the carriage and dropping down”.
The names of two of the four seriously injured passengers were released, a Joe Pugh who is thought to have broken both legs, who was riding next to his new girlfriend, Leah Washington who is said to have far more serious injuries. The other two unnamed passengers were described as an 18 year old girl and a 27 year old man. Unfortunately, the article in The Telegraph also reports that one of the injured is thought to have “lost a leg” due to the accident as well.
This is just horrifying to read, and my thoughts and well wishes go out to the riders as well as everyone involved in this tragedy from the park as well.
(6/3/15) Alton Towers will be closed today, following yesterday's accident on The Smiler coaster, and from the sound of things, The Smiler will be closed until further notice. According to the reports I've been able to read, four riders were taken to local hospitals for treatment (2 teenage boys, 2 teenage girls), all with serious leg injuries from the impact. I wish them well and a speedy recovery.
As for the cause of the accident... it still isn't entirely clear and an official statement has not been made. I normally wouldn't even speculate or spread rumors about just what might have happened, but there are a couple of weird rumors going around the web from those who claim to have seen the accident. Again... these are unverified reports so far, but according to some reports the train of riders did come to a stop on a lift hill when the coaster's safety system detected a blocking violation (the stalled train) ahead. they claim shortly after it stopped, the lift was started again and sent over the top, despite cries from afar about the stalled train again. This rumor falls in with the second rumor making the rounds, claiming that the ride was put in or left in "Maintenance Mode" which allowed for the override to the blocking system.
Since all coasters do have these safety blocking systems in place to prevent exactly this kind of accident, this story does sounds like it has a possible thread of truth to it, in which case the investigation may determine that 'human error' would be to blame. Again... that is just the early word going around, and nothing is official until the investigation releases their official report. For now, lets just hope everyone gets well and can walk away from this horrible accident.
(6/2/15) Four riders are reported as being seriously hurt after a fully loaded (16 riders) roller coaster train on The Smiler crashed into an empty train that had stalled out on the track. Apparently the ride went down for some kind of issue and the crew sent out the empty car first, and followed it with the one loaded with guests, unaware that the empty train had stalled or valleyed somewhere on the course. Normally all coasters have a series of sensors and blocking zones to prevent this kind of thing from happening, so somewhere in the system, the automated safety blocks failed.
Given what we know so far, I'd expect The Smiler to remain closed for the next several weeks, if not months, to allow for a proper investigation and resolution. You can read the official report from the BBC here.