It's time for one of those topics. I think it's needed after the weekend where, by all accounts, things went badly wrong for Alton Towers on many fronts. I feel quite sad for those individuals across the resort putting in the hours, time and energy into trying to get the resort into a position where it's a fantastic day out - every time. Yet, it seems increasingly difficult in this climate of reduced budgets from on high. TripAdvisor is not pleasant reading tonight. The Monorail The park have decided to change ERT to 9.30am, and the Monorail now opens at 9.00am. This, in itself, is probably fine on quieter days - but on busy days? I am not sure. The Monorail queue at 8.45am stretched back past the golf course and the service hadn't even opened. This does not start people's day well. As a result, many decided to walk, so the plaza was already packed on both Saturday and Sunday well before the advertised 9.30am opening time. The Plaza Was sadly a bit of a shambles. Whether it was 60 minute waits to purchase a ticket, or a 30 minute wait simply to get through the turnstiles. With no Merlin or Alton passes able to be scanned at the barriers, this was even more of an issue. At one stage, such were the crowds on the plaza, that the Monorail exit was blocked - and guests were backing up the ramp towards the platforms! There was a complete lack of crowd control. To make matters worse, some turnstiles were not opened up. It would appear this is due to cuts to the welcome team. Perhaps the park need to look at the Early Ride Time setup. On busier days - is there any way that they can offer 1 hour of ERT - yet on quieter days, 30 minutes? As we all know - there are huge differences in guests on a Saturday than a term time weekday. Something to think about. The plaza was a mess. I felt sorry for some of the staff who were receiving abuse from guests. Wicker Man A fantastic overall family-thrill experience it may well be, but some of the communication regarding the ride's issues was dire. It took almost 2 hours of stops and starts before any genuine announcement was made to the queue line - and even then, there was a distinct lack of clarity. The ride's teething issues obviously are 'one of those things' and we'll live with it, but there was, quite honestly, chaos at points. I was very grateful though that the park were happy to keep running the ride until after 8pm on Saturday. The throughput was a disaster because of all the problems but everyone managed to ride that wanted to. I do have some concern over the quantity of Fastrack ticket holders, but this is probably complimentary ones due to all the technical problems. I am shocked that a brand new GCI has had such problems and am gutted for the park on this one because they have worked so hard to get it ready on time. But errors were nevertheless made. I was stapled into the seat so airtime? What airtime! Restraints had to be re-checked, people couldn't fit, it was stopping on the lift - oh. my. days! TLC Credit where credit is due(l). Work has obviously not yet been completed, but the improvements to Duel thus far are welcome. I love the new soundtrack and the pre show experience has been enhanced. Let the good work continue! The Nemesis monster also looks great. Kudos. F&B/Retail Two steps forward, two steps back. We now have mothballed Th13teen shop and FV Burger Kitchen. However, the new WM shop is great and the Hot Wraps stand is welcome. Th13teen / The Smiler If a job is worth doing: do it well. This is not the case on these two rides. The blocked up baggage hold and bodge-job on the FT entrances is not great and does not leave a good impression. Th13teen has lost around 20% of its throughput due to the baggage loss (not too bad) but Smiler is far worse. Not to mention that the ride remains a complete cess-pit. Alton Towers need to invest £000s: The queue line needs ripping out and starting again and they entire experience needs bringing up to scratch. The Smiler is not going to cope with the throughput loss caused by the new baggage system. There is even fake ivy pinned to The Smiler's queue line. Honestly. Someone got mixed up. General Throughputs Rubbish. Galactica was running 2 crafts only and the new loading system is awful. Just get rid of VR once and for all and wash your hands of it. Nemesis, 1 train. Spinball, 4 cars. Smiler, 3 cars. Rita was running 2 but was being dispatched very slowly. I worked on the ride in 2007 and it would achieve 960 to 1080 most hours. Today? Barely 600. Add in the issues with Wicker Man and it made for a miserable queue experience on park this weekend. Ride Availability Was awful. It was like being at Thorpe Park on a rough day. At 10.30am this morning, only Oblivion, and Spinball were large coasters open. At least half the park's rides suffered problems during the weekend and it meant that guests were left frustrated. It is wholly unpleasant when you are standing around and hearing families and groups of friends have negative conversations about their day out at 'your happy place'. 2018 should be the year that Alton shine. But once again, Merlin Entertainments have proved they are completely unfit to provide the budget which allows Alton Towers to remain the beacon of British days out. Sad.