The Ultimate: 20 years of the rough and tough

Today marks two decades of operation for what is Britain’s most strikingly original and bizarre rollercoaster, The Ultimate at Lightwater Valley.

20 years on and it remains the signature attraction of the North Yorkshire’s park, something which they would undoubtedly struggle to survive without.

While it is key to the park’s prosperity and is a big draw for rollercoaster enthusiasts all around the world, it is an expensive asset to keep running.

Its annual maintenance costs are thought to be high, which will be largely due to its extraordinary colossal design, incorrectly banked sections and general brutality.

It is a victim of its own unique wildness and literally beats itself (and passengers) up with every mile-and-a-half circuit.


Anyone that has been on The Ultimate will know that the lateral forces experienced on the snaking woodland section could be compared to minor car crashes.

Indeed, shortly after it opened in 1991, the overhead restraints were replaced with lap bars after they were considered too brutal.

Sections of the woodland track were also re-profiled, which makes you wonder how severe the forces were before.

In September 1994, an axle on one of the trains broke, resulting in a pair of wheels coming off and causing a car to fall directly onto the track.

The stresses on the 10-tonne trains remain extremely high to this day, which have led some to believe that an investment of new vehicles is now long overdue.

Nevertheless, the trains have made over 200,000 laps and carried around 7,500,000 passengers over its lifetime.

It could clearly be maintained to run in its current condition for many additional years, but at what point does the investment in new trains seem to make more sense than paying out large amounts of cash year after year keeping the status quo?

We would like to congratulate Lightwater Valley, The Ultimate and all of you that have ridden it over the years – it is a truly wonderful monster.