Smiler investigation “pretty much concluded”

The SmilerAn internal investigation into the Smiler rollercoaster accident at Alton Towers has been “pretty much concluded”, CEO Nick Varney has said.

The Merlin Entertainments boss said in a trading update this morning that the results of the investigation would be announced in “due course”.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is conducting its own investigation, would take considerably longer to reveal the findings of its investigation.

Varney said that reopening the ride was the “aspiration”, although he gave no indication when that would occur.

He added that the reopening of the ride was not linked to the completion of the HSE’s investigation.

As of Friday last week, the ride was understood to still be under a HSE prohibition notice, preventing its use until improvements are made.

Visitor drop off

Varney also revealed that the major fall in attendances seen at Alton Towers was primarily down to first-time visitors boycotting the park.

Alton Towers' end-of-season events are expected to recover some losses

Alton Towers’ end-of-season events are expected to recover some losses

He said that it was expected that the forthcoming Halloween and fireworks events would provide some trading resurgence due to their popularity with local and other established visitors.

Alton Towers was omitted from a presentation slide which showed the Merlin attractions  due to receive a large capital investment in 2017.

However, the company’s chief finance officer said that company-wide capital investment strategy remained unaffected, without explicitly mentioning Alton Towers.

It had been expected that the park’s next major investment would open in 2017, with a preliminary planning query regarding a wooden ride being submitted earlier this year.

Varney said that “exciting new news” regarding a 2016 addition to the park would be revealed at a future time.

Living wage

When questioned over the potential impact of a rising minimum – or ‘living’ – wage, it was said that the impact on Merlin would be “marginal”.

The British government announced earlier this year that the minimum wage for over 25s would rise in increments to £9 per hour by 2020.

Varney said that the projected sub-1% impact on revue would predominantly be due to the overwhelming majority of Merlin’s employees being below the age of 25.