Editorial: The gamble of reopening the Smiler

The SmilerReopening the Smiler is not as simple as it may first seem, even when it has been determined as being safe.

Alton Towers faces a huge headache on how to proceed with a ride which has been dogged by problems since its opening.

If and when the ride does reopen, the level of scrutiny it will face from the media is extreme, not least from the relentlessly obsessive Daily Mirror newspaper.

Given the Smiler’s track record of, from an engineering point of view, non-serious yet easily sensationalised incidents, Alton Towers will need to be absolutely certain that it is able to reopen the Smiler with no blunders whatsoever.

This means that Merlin Entertainments bosses will now certainly be speaking to manufacturers Gerstlauer very sternly, and demanding that the ride be able to run without further incident going forward.

That means that incidents of the past – the loss of guide wheels and track bolting, plus track gaps – must be completely beyond the realms of possibility.

The cracks that appeared in the concrete footers for the rollercoaster’s support feet must also be a thing of the past.

The reality is that almost no imperfection, no matter how insignificant, can be risked if the ride is to reopen.

The utilisation of a third party in Alton Towers’ design review of the ride, is another layer of protection for Merlin, as it looks to avoid further PR catastrophe.

The question of how popular the reopened ride, be it re-branded or not, further strengthens the question of it being worthwhile.

It remains to be seen whether that third party – and Gerstlauer themselves – are capable of convincing Merlin that re-opening ride is worth the financial risk.