Throughputs... a positive picture (mostly)!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AstroDan, 8th Sep 2019.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    When you have been to Europa-Park. Or Disney. Or Cedar Point. Or Universal. One can become difficult to please when it comes to good operations in a theme park. And, truth be told, even in the dour days of 2016 and 2017 when operations at ATR really seemed to take a dip post-Smiler, they have never been *really* bad at Alton Towers. Not compared to those infamously badly operated parks like most Six Flags properties or somewhere like PortAventura, where single trains or needlessly slow loading times are commonplace.

    Yet, I have to say, 2019 has been much more positive. The sluggishness of the past few years seems to have gone away. I know opening hours could still be more generous, there could be more of this or more of that - but when it comes to the ultimate Nemesis of any theme park: QUEUES... Alton Towers do, actually, seem like they are (in most cases) trying their damnedest to shift them.

    Nemesis has always been the one that stands up and delivers - very much the workhorse of the park. The ride doesn't stack on two trains the majority of the time and tends to hook up over 1,000 riders per hour without too much of an issue.

    Galactica has seen a renaissance of capacity since the VR goggles were removed. We're back to 'slowing down on the lift' territory because the block isn't clear. In my view, there isn't a better operated B&M flying coaster anywhere in the world. Even Universal Japan.

    Runaway Mine Train is perhaps one of those that doesn't quite fit the bill. Ever since that wretched host dispatch thing was put in meaning that the host has to walk all the way from the back of the train to the front again before dispatch... not to mention the silly delay between the ride stopping and the bars releasing. It's not exactly badly operated, but it's far from a beacon due to silly procedure.

    Wicker Man has become a behemoth. I know the ride achieved a record hourly throughput this year and you can see why. Just two hosts on the platform but due to the baggage system employed on the ride, it consistently achieves upward of 1,000 riders per hour. No mean feat on a GCI and I would put money on this being the second highest capacity single-track GCI in the world - after Wodan. The ride is often having to wait several seconds in the station even when all bars have been checked because the system simply won't let it send. Good job! You won't queue an hour to the entrance - and that is saying something.

    Spinball Whizzer has an inherently lower capacity due to the design. However, we're often seeing 6 or 7 cars on the system and when compared with every other Maurer spinner I have done (aside from yes... you guessed it... Crush) - the capacity is higher. Unlike the stupid policies on Dragon's Fury, Spinball loads the cars properly. There isn't too much fastrack and cars are dispatched frequently.

    Oblivion is one which has never quite lived up to the alleged throughput which is almost the highest B&M capacity in Europe. But, I have to say, on my past two visits - I have been quite pleased. Running 5 is about right and today, it was achieving over 1,000 per hour. Again - more than satisfactory for a park like Alton Towers. We queued to just the other side of the small building where fastrack comes up the bank and joins the main queue... only 25 minutes. More than happy with that!

    Smiler is an example of a ride which could benefit from a baggage store being returned. Ultimately, like Wicker Man, it's the park's most popular ride and people are willing to wait. It consistently has some of the longest queues in the park and, as such, like Wicker Man it should have a baggage store system. This would immediately boost the capacity by 10 to 20%. However, in spite of this, the ride is still reasonably well operated. Like Runaway Mine Train, some changes to the way it operates would help capacity and I feel the resort should look at this.

    Th13teen is another coaster which would benefit from a baggage store renaissance. On opening day in 2010, the ride achieved 1,440 per hour. These days, it's around 2/3 of that only. The removal of the baggage store on this has had an even bigger impact than on Smiler. Due to the narrow design of the station, guests towards the front of the train have to wander several metres to deposit their bags. It really does suffer for it. This is a pity because it's a well designed attraction and trains are moved about by the system quickly. Sadly, Alton's changes here have caused a drop in capacity over the years and as a result the queue is artificially increased.

    Rita is a ride which is tough to get a throughput on. I worked on the ride in 2007 and saw this first hand. Yet there was one big difference in 2007 compared to now. 2 more staff on the ride. As a consequence, there were more people checking harnesses and this meant trains were checked and ready to send at least 10 seconds more quickly than they are now. I recall in 2007 the ride achieved a throughput of 1,060 per hour on one occasion. Baggage isn't an issue because the cages are before loading. Yet, due to the clunky ride system and lack of staffing these days, Rita struggles to get anywhere near its capacity.

    So - most coasters are definitely doing pretty good at ATR these days. But with 2 more staff on Rita, baggage brought back on Smiler and Th13teen and a look at the host dispatch panel on RMT - they could all be on fire, all of the time.

    It would be great if the resort would look at these little changes to enhance guests' days even more.

    :)
     
    IanB, Ciaran, Bert2theSpark and 15 others like this.
    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  2. spinba11

    spinba11 TowersStreet Member

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    A good way to judge how fast smiler is dispatching is if the train leaves the 1st lift before the train on the 2nd lift. How did Rita work with the additional 2 staff members? I’m assuming 1 did rows 1 to 5 and the other did 5 to 10.
     
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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  3. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Smiler rarely does that now due to the baggage faff.

    Rita - there would be two platformers on each side. One would start from the back, one from the front, once they met - they would both go to dispatch.

    :)
     
    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  4. USLShadow

    USLShadow TowersStreet Member

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    [​IMG]

    Speaking of Smiler trains on the lift, managed to grab this snap! If what Spinba11 says about the timing of the lifts then the ops were killing it yesterday!

    (That is unless I’ve got the lift hills mixed up!)

    Ops yesterday despite it being packed overall were very good!


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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  5. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    See, the above photo is not Smiler at capacity. Back in the days pre-baggage faff, a train would leave lift one before a train had actually gone vertical on lift 2.

    :)
     
    USLShadow likes this.
    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  6. USLShadow

    USLShadow TowersStreet Member

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    Well damn that’s efficient! Never saw Smiler in the early days.

    What is the story with removing the baggage stores? Seems like a very silly thing to do


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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  7. spinba11

    spinba11 TowersStreet Member

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    That photo show the ideal dispatch interval, the other Monday my train hit the bump on the 3rd inversion and the train in front was about to leave the top of lift 2.
     
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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  8. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Baggage stores were removed during the cost-cutting phase at ATR following the dropoff in guests post-Smiler crash. It went along with the Th13teen's, and the resort also slashed costs by closing hotels off peak, introducing staggered ride openings, closing the park on certain days and removing multiple rides and closing shops and food outlets.

    Sadly, many of the cuts remain in place to this day - but thankfully some have been reversed.
     
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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  9. USLShadow

    USLShadow TowersStreet Member

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    Well....my few years of absence from everything Theme Park related have meant I’ve missed ALOT.

    Glad to see that some of the cuts have been reversed, hopefully more to come with guest numbers on the rise....

    It would be a crying shame to lose AT, especially given that it’s starting to turn around.


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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  10. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    ATR will be fine. The issue is that once the cuts are made, it becomes hard for the resort to "justify" reversing them if they have managed without them...

    Wallets are tighter than ever across the Merlin RTP portfolio sadly.
     
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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  11. USLShadow

    USLShadow TowersStreet Member

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    It is a shame, especially since just how well the park can operate.

    Few years back (before corkscrew went), I remember it feeling as though you were being teleported into another world as soon as you crossed those gates. All the theming and effects were incredible.

    Credit where it’s due for yesterday’s visit though, Ops were doing fantastic, dispatch times were short and although there were stoppages throughout the day, everything seemed fairly quick considering the guest numbers. The throughput potential is there with the rides as Nemesis proves over and over.

    I wonder if over the next year or two with guest levels rising, if the park will reach a point where they physically can’t keep up with the cuts in place....

    Interesting times ahead and definetely an interesting topic


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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  12. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    They will slowly reverse them, as long as guest numbers continue to pick up.

    If they don't - they will go on.

    :)
     
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    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  13. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    I'd say Smiler, Rita, Thirteen and RMT are all problematic at the moment, to the extent that I'm highly averse to waiting a significant amount of time for any of them. Thirteen would be fine if the bag store returned, Smiler less so as the queue would still be unpleasant as it's inherently horrible. Rita serms basically a lost cause and RMT is mired in operational purgatory, burdened by pointless procedure. Those dispatch buttons on the platform would be fine if they checked restraints from both ends of the train like they used to, as the staff would finish the (much quicker) check in vaguely the right place.

    The other major rides are usually fine, Nemesis and Galactica being the workhorses of the park, now supported by WM, especially towards the end of the day (when unlike the then-quiet FV coasters, there will still be a long queue of people benefitting from there being no more FT/RAP guests)
     
    Posted 8th Sep 2019
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  14. spinba11

    spinba11 TowersStreet Member

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    The bag holds survived the first round of cuts, they went at the start of 2018.
     
    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  15. evilcod

    evilcod TowersStreet Member

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    I think the rapids needs mentioning here, throughput has been shocking the last season or so, it appears all attempts at boat sharing have been scrapped. It should be pretty much the highest throughput on park, at the moment not a chance.
     
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    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  16. GaryH

    GaryH TowersStreet Member

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    Good post @AstroDan . One thing you didnt mention though was Single Rider queues. Maybe removing them has increased throughput? Although on Saturday despite the very long queues it was annoying to see so many cars being dispatched with lots of empty seats, particularly on Galactica.
     
    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  17. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    True, though I think many of us just prefer to pretend the rapids doesn't exist at all given how poor it is these days. I've only been on it once or twice so far this season, whereas it used to be a staple part of the day.

    RE: SRQs - I suspect their removal slightly increased loading times on Rita, as the staff now have to close the restraint of any unoccupied seat which adds a few seconds. Nemesis will typically dispatch quicker without the SRQ due to how badly it was implemented, whilst on Galactica the impact will be minimal. On Thirteen I've seen them reshuffle an entire train when 2 separate groups of 3 were on the same train as someone who had to get off as the restraint wouldn't close. This left them with only 17 passengers, which isn't allowed. Took them ages to sort that out as they had to get someone to switch rows then find a group of 2. With a SRQ it wouldn't have been a problem as there wouldn't have been 2 empty seats to begin with.
     
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    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  18. TheBolt

    TheBolt TowersStreet Member

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    It doesn't look like it would be that tricky to add another cage at the front, there is a gap behind the decoration there. Just needs a bit more scaffolding and some racking... and it ould knock a few seconds off many dispatches.

    [​IMG]
     
    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  19. Crawleyboy01

    Crawleyboy01 TowersStreet Member

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    To be completely honest I've always thought most of the merlin parks have a slow load time on purpose. Not saying this happens at AT, but I'm pretty much sure it does at Thorpe and chessington. Slower load times means longer ques, longer ques means people cant be bothered to wait, means FAST TRACK SALES. I could be wrong. But think of this how many times have you walked up to a ride, seen its a hour or 45 min wait and thought, meh I have nothing else to do, I love this ride so I'll que up and wait....only to get on the bloody thing 10 mins later because the "estimated time" was completely wrong. Another fast track sales tactic
     
    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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  20. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    There is categorically no ploy at ATR to reduce throughputs to increase FT sales.

    Just for the avoidance of any doubt.

    :)
     
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    Posted 9th Sep 2019
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