Fastrack Farce

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AstroDan, 28th Oct 2012.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I don't often make a formal complaint at Alton Towers, indeed I cannot remember the last time I did so. Yesterday, however, was another matter - down to the sheer scandal that was the sheer volume of fastrack on certain rides.

    For the record, my complaint was in no way aimed at getting some form of compensation - in fact, upon visiting Guest Services - my first comment was 'I am not here to get compensated' - and I happilly left with nothing, safe in the knowledge that I had passed on my frustrations to the resort.

    So, the problem?

    Obviously, everyone has noticed the increase in fastrack sales through the 2012 season, which has reduced the movement of main queue lines. This has in itself been a frustration for guests who, even if they are not aware, will be riding less per day.

    There have also been throughput reductions on Rita and Oblivion. Rita, due to the cable snap incident earlier in the season, which now means (riightly or wrongly) Alton Towers H&S feel nobody can stand below the launch track (even though Stealth at Thorpe Park hasn't altered the queueline). Therefore, there are now additional queue line hosts, and the operator cannot dispatch the train until he/she has verified the area is clear. So, a ride which already has an awful queue, is now made worse and has been 90+ minutes on many, many occasions recently. Oblivion, also - the hosts were checking safety harnesses twice for some weeks, and, although this has now stopped, airgates are noticeably not opened until (most) guests have left the station from the previous ride. As a result, a ride whose theoretical capacity is well over 1,600 per hour - is barely getting 1,100 or so these days. The question is: Has fastrack sale been cut on these rides due to the less throughputs?

    Furthermore, hotel guests have free fastrack on selected rides to make up for the lack of ERT. However, if the hotels are full - this can amount to 1,500-2,000 guests - each with a free fastrack to use at any time on Oblivion and Th13teen.

    Add this to the standard fastrack sales - and you end up with a fastrack situation that is massively extending the waiting times for guests in the main queue.

    Yesterday, I had never seen anything like it at Alton Towers. Oblivion guests were waiting up to 2 hours for their ride - this because, the rear shuttle being loaded was principally for fastrack guests. The front row was often made up of disabled guests through the exit. Therefore, the main queue was getting only 1 or 1 1/2 of the 4 rows available per dispatch! You can imagine the speeds at which the main queue was moving. Barely 30-40% of the hourly capacity was actually going to the main queue - or some 4-500 per hour...

    Upon arrival at Th13teen, the queue board advised a wait of 120 minutes. This, for a ride which boasts an achievable hourly capacity of 1,400. In 2010, to the entrance and on 3 trains, this would have been a queue of 60 to 70 minutes - even in all queue areas. So, why suddenly 120 minutes? Well... a fastrack queue of 40 minutes was to blame. Bulging right out of the fastrack/single riders split, and down past the photo unit and behind the supplies shop. The main queue was to the entrance, and the single riders were all mixed in with the fastrack. Add in exit riders ("disabled" guests) and the main queue becomes an absolute farce. Again, around 50-60% of Th13teen's capacity yesterday was not being allocated to the main queue.

    I did not ride either due to this. I have no problem with queues if the park is busy, but when it is simply because they are over allocating fastrack - then this is not acceptable. If they wish hotel guests to have fastrack, the park sales need to be cut, and hotel guests should have timed slots to ease the problem.

    It was embarassing, and something akin to the very worst days at Thorpe Park. Queues for fastrack purchase were awful.

    Queue times yesterday, and I bet most of these were made worse by serious fastrack use:

    Th13teen: 120 (with a throughput of 1,440?)
    Rita: 120 (really, in that queueline!?)
    Air: 90
    Oblivion: 90 advertised, actual 120 (the highest capacity coaster in the UK? hmmm...)
    Sub Terra: 75 (this thing just shouldn't have any fastrack at all!)
    Charlie: 70 (honestly? is this a joke?)
    Nemesis: 80
    RMT: 50 (where on earth do all these guests fit in that small queueline!?)
    Sonic Spinball: 90

    They need throughputs, common sense and fastrack restraint back and pronto otherwise Fireworks Saturday 2012 is going to be one of the most exasperating days at Alton Towers ever.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  2. Jonathan

    Jonathan TowersStreet Member

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    Couldn't agree more. And I thought that the Fastrack queue for Nemmy seen by Ian when he visited back in June was bad! :(
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  3. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    I have complained about the self same issue, and got a response saying essentially that if I wanted to purchase fast track it was a "personal choice" - yet the fact the Single Rider has gone, replaced by Fast Track only, which no one was using, whilst trains were dispatching with multiple empty seats. This contributed to a near 60 minute queue, on a day it could have easily been half that.

    I could see this happening. It was obvious. Not as bad as you describe, but because other guests in our party, on a not-so-busy *busy enough mind* day, I ended up buying 2 fast tracks! 10 quid! One being to take another member on who hadn't ridden before.

    It was an awkward group in terms of what we could do, there was no way around it. Single Rider queue would have put me on one of those empty seats.

    You can see, there are deliberate moves to "encourage" more people to buy fast track on park, it's leading to a farcical situation at all Merlin attractions now.

    Like you I did not complain for compensation, but addressing my points on this matter would have been nice - instead it was totally ignored, and anything of this nature I questioned, swept neatly under the "personal choice" carpet.

    Disgraceful.

    100% agree with you Dan.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  4. Vik

    Vik TowersStreet Member

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    I went to Towers yesterday knowing full well that I wouldn't get on many rides as it was expected to be a busy day, and being a regular visitor and visiting with other people who visit on a regular basis this wasn't a problem.

    However the queue times were vastly exasperated by the way Fastrack is operated on park, along with over selling of them, and of course the reductions in capacity on Rita & Oblivion due to slightly over the top H&S rules being implemented. I don't mind queueing an hour or more for something if the queue moves at a reasonable pace, like the Oblivion queue would once do. Though with at times only 25% of available capacity of this ride being taken up by the main queue this must of been a pretty awful wait. A 90 minute wait in a queue that barely moves probably feels like you are waiting double that.

    I do hope that the way Fastrack is operated is reviewed over the closed season and massive improvements are made to its operation in time for next season.

    Firstly, cut the greed and trying to hit over the top sales targets which has resulted in over selling of Fastrack, which in turn means long, slow moving main queues for those who don't wish or can't afford to splash out yet more money. It also means fairly long waits for those who purchase Fastrack when everyone turns up at a ride at the same time. Selling lots of Fastrack, hitting or exceeding targets may mean Sales & Marketing get to pat each other on the backs at the end of the day, but what does it do to overall guest satisfaction?, not to mention the grief the front line staff get from guests getting frustrated in those awful queues.

    Secondly, introduce time slots, and have a lower number of tickets available versus hourly capacity. At the moment it is a free for all, so anyone can turn up at any time on any ride. There does tend to be a certain number of ways people make their way around the park, and thus, there tends to be times when there may be quite a large number of people in one area. If a lot of them have fastracks it seems to over burden the attractions in the area. Timeslots, with an effectively managed availability should help even things out a bit.

    Thirdly, charge more for Fastrack.

    Fastrack is here to stay, there is no doubt about that, as it no doubt makes a tidy profit, but it needs a complete overhaul in terms of operation. At the moment, those who don't want to or can't afford to pay extra are being treated as second class citizens, lumbered in to what is effectively a standby queue line that moves at a snails pace where barely 1/2 the capacity, if they are lucky, is being given over to them.

    Alton Towers in recent years has been the UK benchmark for pushing the through puts of rides and ensuring that the queueing time in the main queue was kept to the minimum possible, and also moving at a reasonable pace. And thus turning round the perception in the 90's that they were infamous for long queues. This has fallen by the wayside this year. Bring this back, and stop treating people who don't succumb to spending more money as second class citizens.

    A quick moving 60 minute queue feels like a lot less of a wait than a frustrating snails pace moving 60 minute queue.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  5. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Thing is here - TheMan - it is not specifically caused by fastrack "sales" - at present, the problem is being massively made worse by Hotel Free Fastrack.

    Could they not open the whole park as usual at 10:00am, but keep, for example, Dark Forest and Cloud Cuckoo Land, open to E(exclusive)RT guests only? That way, they'd at least have something special but the fastrack situation won't crippled queuelines.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  6. Jordan

    Jordan TS Contributor

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    I really think that Fastrack is priced way too low. Surely it makes sense to continue to increase the price until demand levels off? This would be the only way in which they could increase revenue but still have a decent guest experience for those choosing not to buy it.

    I can't imagine that demand for Fastrack is that elastic?!
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  7. Meat Pie

    Meat Pie TowersStreet Member

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    Avoiding the whole moralistic issue of fast-track users choosing a premium service so they dare not have their day ruined by having to queue with the rest of us plebs:

    The old free ticket system would never have caused this much trouble. You cannot trust a company to commoditise a service and for standards not to fall. Once you've turned a service into a commodity, the goal of any private company running said service is to make as much profit as it possibly can out of it, whether or not that negatively impacts on their customer's experience. This was always going to happen. Even if you don't see anything wrong with purchasing these tickets, you must still surely see that any organisation that is driven purely by it's profits cannot be trusted to run it's services in a way which is best for the customers. Don't ever think your day is their priority, Merlin is Merlin's first priority.

    A free, first come first serve fast-track system is the only way to ensure that it isn't corrupted by the greed of the fat-cats wanting to squeeze every penny and that everyone has the best possible day.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  8. Sku

    Sku TowersStreet Member

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    I first started noticing this problem at Thorpe Park this year. The queue time for The Swarm is advertised as 90 minutes. The queue looks only 20 mins long. A man stands at the gate selling fast track while pointing to the 90 minute queue. He sells so many that they are letting in 3 fast track for every 1 in the main queue. The 20 minute queue took me 55 minutes.

    The problem is that this works. It makes a lot of money. And I can only see it getting worse as the season has wore on at the parks because it is bringing in so much money. Merlin seem to be moving towards fun fair pricing. You can get on for free but paying customers get priority. What's that? You already paid admission? Well that's just admission we can't guarantee rides too.

    They won't stop until guest satisfaction noticeably goes down which as far as I can see hasn't happened yet. It's not too bad at Alton Towers yet but Thorpe Park has fully transitioned into fun fair pricing as far as I can see.
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  9. BigDave

    BigDave TowersStreet Member

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    They have to offer hotel guests something, but surely there are a million and one other things they could offer that don't have such a major impact on the rest of the guests days out. It was so bad that we pretty much gave up on going on any of the rides during the middle of the day. Fastrack should work along side the main queue, no instead of it!
     
    Posted 28th Oct 2012
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  10. Niques

    Niques TowersStreet Member

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    I don't like the idea of Fastrack in a usual situation so, when I read things like this I dislike it further.

    The people who are in the Fastrack queue have paid extra money to do so, fair enough, but what about the guests in the normal queueline who have their whole day impacted by it? It's not fair that they get on less rides because they aren't willing to splash the same amount of cash as those in the fastrack queue.

    It sounds like a great idea to have fastrack for those who want it, but not when it means that everyone else gets on less rides just so that the guests with more money to spare can get on more. In fact, it's quite disgusting. The guests who are willing to spend more have a nice day out and get to experience all of the attractions, guests who aren't willing to spend are seemingly punished by only being able to do a few rides.

    When I was at the front of the RMT queue the other week, a host was counting the amount of Fastrack riders coming through the queue. He stated that he was doing so, to check that 'Sales & Info weren't overselling'. He hadn't been asked by a manager to do that, he was doing it of his own accord, because even he thought it was out of hand how slowly the normal queueline was moving due to fastrack.

    Fastrack should be limited. End of. It just demonstrates greed on Merlin's part as the only reason that I can think of, as to why they aren't being limited correctly is money, money, money.
     
  11. Aly

    Aly TowersStreet Member

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    Having had a catch up with my sister and her partner who visited the park yesterday (#undercoverboss) it's seemed that Fastrack failed as a system. For both the people using it and the people not using it - both of whom we're faced with a substandard service.

    It's a tad worrying that guest experience seemed to go out the window yesterday, and it's fair to say a large number of people we're not impressed at the obvious reasons as to why the queues we're taking so long.
     
  12. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    There are very many easy solutions to the issue Dan, that one off the top of your head being rather a brilliant one. You can guarantee that hotel fast track isn't free, it's going to be made up for in other sneaky charges elsewhere. One thing results, no one has an equitable chance of a decent day out - it is less and less, for more and more, and it very, very deliberate.

    "You want a quality day out? Answer = Hotel Stay, or Fast Track" These are "optional" along with the bombardment of up selling apparently. Parking now on top, oh you must by a premium pass, that's the same if you want to actually visit during the parks best times.

    This here
    Demonstrates aptly why your idea is unlikely to be implemented Dan. I only mentioned the experience of Rita, that I noted on a *quieter* day, because it demonstrated perfectly operational measures being purposely introduced to push up fast track sales.

    Other comments on "Fair ground" system, as well as "Second class citizen" say it all for me.

    This was even commented on, during a recent BBC article.

    Merlin are a disgrace at the moment, Thorpe Park seems like a test bed of their crappiest, most customer unfriendly, blatant money making schemes that are without question, to the ever increasing detriment of a customers day out! It's like many USA systems, it makes money over there, and despite the questionable ethics, gets implemented slowly here.

    Alton are going the way of Thorpe, their avoidance of my very obvious points to the parks service manager, adeptly ignored, prove this beyond doubt to me.

    They know precisely what they are doing. Why? Now that is different matter entirely - for that answer I would keep looking up the chain.

    Follow the money, and you'll find who is creating this.

    One thing is for sure, whilst entry costs continue to soar - so do the extras that become increasingly less "optional" to have even a remotely decent day out!

    I don't blame Alton for this, but I wont stop pressing till they come back and tell me who is to blame for it.

    It's the Journalist in me, you just get an instinct that something isn't right.
     
  13. JayM

    JayM TowersStreet Member

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    The queuetimes quoted are the rides I believe all hotel guests (or at least those staying on Wednesday/Thursday night) were given FastTracks for. I absolutely believe that hotel guests recieving FastTrack tickets in place of ERT was a huge contributing factor to the longer queues, but taking advantage of the FastTrack on a really quiet Thursday, I can't comment on the FastTrack queues on busier days.

    I find it interesting that you should bring up the Runaway Mine Train. On my second day on the park this week (Friday), there were five rows at the rear of the train not in use, and the operator was 'reserving' up to four front rows (normally two), telling people in the queue not to use those bays. Who went in these I do not know, but they were definitely occupied by people. That added up to a total of about 14 seats a time unavailable to the main queue. This meant that the Runaway Mine Train had a really long queue on Friday.

    You probably also have to consider though that yesterday was the first day of half-term to many schools in Staffordshire, meaning a huge increase in the visitor numbers - and many would have been off work for the weekend.
     
  14. cotda

    cotda TowersStreet Member

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    ^ I also noticed this when I was on park on Friday!
     
  15. TheMan

    TheMan TowersStreet Member

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    Only expect it to get worse, and more expensive.

    Purveyor of doom I may be in this case lol, but when a business (especially large corporate ones) sees there is easy money to be made, you can bet your ass there will only be more of it to come.

    Bottom lines have been squeezed this year, if visitor numbers have not suffered and profits have increased/done well in the economy - you will see far more of it next year and so on.
     
  16. Martin

    Martin TowersStreet Member

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    They used to be limited (and fairly priced), and the system worked.

    Now guests see them as necessary and will buy them whether they need to or not, so the park sell more and they're not going to stop selling them if it makes them money regardless of the impact it has on guests. From a business point of view, you can't really blame the park for exploiting this. From a moralistic one is obviously a different matter.

    Now we see people queuing to buy fastrack. It's a disgusting irony and a pathetic defeat to commercialism. People have become zombies to fastrack and will automatically buy them, regardless of how much they cost, having to queue to buy them and the fastrack queue being longer than the normal queue. It's embarrassing, not to mention deeply annoying when you're on park. They shouldn't get priority over the main queue, but they do because otherwise the fastrack queue would end up noticeably slower, and then they'd have to refund all the sheep who bought a fastrack ticket and created the problem for themselves.

    It really is awful.
     
  17. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    Simply they need a different perk for hotel guests when ERT is unavailable and they need to increase the price of ERT. The queues yesterday where terrible and if Towers think guest experience is not important they will soon see business fail.

    They need to get a guest experience manager back in the team, when that position existed that person (who was on the senior leadership team) was on park a lot actually seeing what was happening on park rather than sat in an office.

    Also why the hell 8 staff where wasted selling Ice Cream and Slush drinks in 2 degree temperatures, get some hot drinks carts!!! :D
     
  18. Benzin

    Benzin TowersStreet Member

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    Pretty much nail on head there Blaze...

    I've seen people buying Ultimate Fastrack on a day where rides have minimal queues... And of course that people actually queue for Fastrack tickets like you see at Thorpe results in an absolutely ridiculous system... Quite often the situation is that you have to buy it, because so many other people have got it in the first place... And the balancing issues staff have with batching the Fastrackers in their masses over the normal queue also causes problems...

    Personally, I'd like to see a Q-Bot system... As Thorpe have proven they can't do timed slots with the Passing getting hour long queues, so what other options are there? Least Q-Bot can be used relatively well in regards to limitations and timings...
     
  19. dominoes

    dominoes TowersStreet Member

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    I guess I am the only one that finds Fastracks useful then. As a person who mainly goes to Thorpe Park, I think they are very good. The queues aren't nice enough to make up for spending alot of time in, and the fact you can only really buy Fastracks from 1 place, which means that you end up with massive queues at the Fastrack shop means that you end up with people just waiting normally for a ride.
    To be honest, the only ride at Thorpe Park I use Fastracks on is Saw, and sometimes Stealth.
     
  20. Dave

    Dave TS Founding Member

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    FastTrack has mixed opinion but even those who support it don't think a 40min FastTrack queue and 120 main queue is a successful situation.
     

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