Smiler under design review following collision

The SmilerThe Smiler rollercoaster is undergoing a design review following the collision which seriously injured five people last month.

The park’s operators Merlin Entertainments said that they were conducting a third-party review in conjunction with the ride’s manufacturers Gerstlauer.

Speaking in a public conference call this morning, Merlin chief executive Nick Varney also said that a decision over the ride’s future had not yet been taken.

He added that he thought Alton Towers would recover in the “medium term”, despite seeing a considerable fall in attendances since the 2 June accident.

Ride Rater understands that the rollercoaster will not operate again this season.

Queue times for the park’s rides and attractions have at times fallen to levels below that of the November weekdays, which typically see less than 5,000 guests visiting the park per day.

‘Adverse effects’

Merlin this morning issued a trading statement warning of the “adverse impact” on trading at the start of the “critical” summer period.

Varney said that adverse affects would be felt into 2016, but that the company would be better able to manage that via budgetary planning, which would be difficult to implement during the middle of the peak season.

Merlin projected that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) for its theme parks would likely be down by between £37 million and £47 million.

Varney said that guest satisfaction remained “world class” from the wider Merlin custom base.

Approximately 1% to 1.5% of the company’s 60 million guests use the touch screen feedback consoles that feature at the company’s attractions, he revealed.

Varney said that Alton Towers was most significant affected by a drop in visitor numbers following the Smiler accident, and to a lesser extent Thorpe Park.

He said that the compensation payments to the injured in the Smiler accident were “not material” to the company’s financial performance.

Shares in Merlin fell from 424 to 385 pence at the opening of trading on the London Stock Exchange this morning, before recovering somewhat to close at 405 pence.

The company’s financial results for the first half of this year will be published in full on Thursday.