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What does the future hold for rapids rides in the UK?

Matt N

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Hi guys. As many of you may know, rapids rides have grown to be a rather contentious topic within the UK industry in recent years. Following the incident on Splash Canyon at Drayton Manor in 2017, the safety of these attractions was brought into question by the HSE and the parks operating them. As such, most water effects were removed, the prevalence of staff around the rides increased, and safeguards such as doors and higher backs were added onto the boats.


This was not where the matter ended, however. The HSE released the results of their inquest into the Drayton Manor incident in 2021, and this inquest contained a number of safety measures for parks to implement on their rapids rides long term. These suggestions included the things already mentioned above, but it should be noted that this HSE inquest also emphasised the need to make riders’ risk of death from drowning very clear. The HSE said that parks needed to install frequent signage around the rides and their queues warning of the risk of drowning, and platform staff also became required to perform a strongly gesticulated safety spiel to each group talking about the risk of drowning before the ride. This subsequently meant that an emphasis on risk education and incident aversion was substantially amplified on UK rapids rides for 2022, and any notion of effects returning seemed to be put on the back burner, in the short term at least.


Increasingly, some enthusiasts are beginning to argue that the situation with rapids rides in Britain is untenable. Many say that the new safety measures are so overbearing that they almost make rapids rides not worth operating anymore. I'm hearing terms like "glorified lazy river" and "boring" thrown around to describe many rapids rides in the UK these days, and even Adventure Cove River Rapids at Drayton Manor, which was newly rethemed for 2021 in accordance with these guidelines, does not exactly buck the trend effects-wise compared to other UK rapids rides.


As such, questions are beginning to be asked about the long term future of rapids rides in the UK. People are wondering whether this type of attraction continues to be a viable fit for the UK theme park industry given how much circumstances have changed since many UK rapids rides were first built. With this in my mind, my question to you today is; in your opinion, what does the future hold for rapids rides in the UK?


Personally, I don't think revered rapids rides being permanently consigned to history in the UK is necessarily a foregone conclusion, but I do feel that getting a revered rapids ride into the UK again would likely require the construction of a brand new one. To have special effects put back onto a UK rapids ride, I think seatbelts would have to be included, and to justify those, I think you'd need to design a rapids ride very differently to how any of the current UK rapids rides are designed. This is because on the current UK rapids rides, the risk of the boat capsizing, relative to the risk of someone coming out, is too high for seatbelts to exist. Whereas on a more thrilling rapids ride with larger boats, the risk of coming out is higher and seatbelts are therefore justified. I do think a new rapids ride could well be built in the UK at some point with some of these slightly more thrilling features, but I'll admit that I'm not sure if other types of water ride, such as a water coaster or new-gen log flume, might be more feasible for the modern UK market.


But what do you guys think? What do you feel that the future holds for rapids rides in the UK?

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