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Daniel.S313

Park Operations

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I disagree.  Filtering Fastrack into the main queue is much fairer on people in the main queue, much more pleasant for RAP holders and doesn't slow the operations down as much.

 

Operations are the worst I've ever seen at Thorpe today in terms of throughput, staff literally standing around doing nothing when they should be sending the trains, strolling up and down the platform... oh dear.

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I was more referring to the numbers - 8 non-main queue vs 20 main queue is a good split.

 

There's benefits to both systems, and looking at how Thorpe have designed queues in recent years, they prefer letting Fastrack join just before the ride. Colossus (and Inferno) are unfortunately stuck in the past a little as a result. But I agree they should stick to the systems they've got in the place, or redesign queues, rather then retrospectively trying to put a system in which the side isn't designed for.

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Isn’t this use of fastrack at the exit just a budget save, one less staff member. Hardly seems any point to be honest, guest satisfaction is supposed to be priority at Merlin. 

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Guest satisfaction went out the window to cut costs a few years ago. Doesn't surprise me if they are now cutting costs by removing staff members from places they are probably needed.

 

It's depressing to hear how Merlin runs the place, especially this year. Although it's not Alton levels with the rapids. The way that is currently being run is just funny at this point.

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4 hours ago, Ringo said:

Isn’t this use of fastrack at the exit just a budget save, one less staff member. Hardly seems any point to be honest, guest satisfaction is supposed to be priority at Merlin. 

Yup, if the fastrack isn't required for ride operation then it will usually only be in place on 'peak' days, hence cutting a member of staff.

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2 hours ago, EpicSmatty said:

Yup, if the fastrack isn't required for ride operation then it will usually only be in place on 'peak' days, hence cutting a member of staff.

So they're selling a lot (and I mean, a lot) of Fastrack in the full knowledge that ride operations are slow and there aren't enough staff to cope?

 

Guest experience = gone.

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13 hours ago, Coaster said:

So they're selling a lot (and I mean, a lot) of Fastrack in the full knowledge that ride operations are slow and there aren't enough staff to cope?

 

Guest experience = gone.

 

The guests keep going so I mean, until people wake up and stop visiting, they'll continue with this behaviour.

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2 hours ago, Mark9 said:

The guests keep going so I mean, until people wake up and stop visiting, they'll continue with this behaviour.

I can't imagine it being much longer until people stop visiting, guest experience seems to have plummeted even further this season based on my few visits.

 

The issue is probably the cheap (£49) season passes, as people will pay upfront and are then locked in for a year regardless of how good/bad the service is.

 

That said, it's almost as if the park is "artificially busy" in that I'd guess that a very small percentage of guests pay on the day nowadays.

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They're still getting hammered on Tripadvisor (I'm aware that people are more likely to complain than praise), things will only get worse as the school trip and summer holidays arrive.

 

Honestly: the next few years could be golden for Thorpe. The late opens have been a success, cheap annual passes and the park is looking better than last year. They just need to quicken the operations, either reopen or remove the SBNO rides and make Project 2020 a success.

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Don't think the cheap annual passes are a sign of complete positivity, especially given the general lack of spend by most MAP holders on here (and WE'RE the target market for tat!)...

 

There's a lot more beneath the surface that needs addressing before any Merlin park can be considered having a 'golden success'... A sensible long term plan would be a start...

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10 hours ago, Coaster said:

I can't imagine it being much longer until people stop visiting, guest experience seems to have plummeted even further this season based on my few visits.

 

The issue is probably the cheap (£49) season passes, as people will pay upfront and are then locked in for a year regardless of how good/bad the service is.

 

That said, it's almost as if the park is "artificially busy" in that I'd guess that a very small percentage of guests pay on the day nowadays.

Yet you still buy a pass?

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32 minutes ago, TallGuyDom said:

Yet you still buy a pass?

A MAP makes financial sense for me as it allows me to visit the Blackpool Tower, Circus, Dungeons, London attractions and a few visits to the theme parks.

 

That said, guest experience has really hit an all-time low this year (since purchasing the pass) which may be a factor towards my decision to renew in 2019 (or not!).  It will depend if the Merlin attractions I anticipate visiting next year have a higher or lower cost implication if paying for each one seperately as opposed to having the pass.

 

Visiting the attractions "for the sake of it" isn't an option anymore with the current levels of service, Wicker Man may be enough of a draw to justify a return visit to Towers and we may try one of the late night events at Thorpe depending on reports from the earliest ones.

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A MAP makes financial sense for me as it allows me to visit the Blackpool Tower, Circus, Dungeons, London attractions and a few visits to the theme parks.
 
That said, guest experience has really hit an all-time low this year (since purchasing the pass) which may be a factor towards my decision to renew in 2019 (or not!).  It will depend if the Merlin attractions I anticipate visiting next year have a higher or lower cost implication if paying for each one seperately as opposed to having the pass.
 
Visiting the attractions "for the sake of it" isn't an option anymore with the current levels of service, Wicker Man may be enough of a draw to justify a return visit to Towers and we may try one of the late night events at Thorpe depending on reports from the earliest ones.
The diminishing customer experience is what made me decide to not renew this year. Wasn't an easy decision but enough is enough.

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk

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Had a great day at Thorpe today!

Queues were 5-30 minutes for most of the day for the main rides and the all the main coasters were on two trains!

 

Stacking is still present on Colossus and a tad on Swarm, though it seemed much better than last time.

I think after 3 rides on Saw today I have to say I think the Saw team deserve a medal, the batches were lightning quick and the queue moved really damn fast.

All of the main coasters didn't break down/close throughout the day despite the horrible rain, overall very impressed.

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I visited on Monday and operations were really fast, Colossus still stacked for about 20 seconds but Inferno were telling people over the tannoy to hurry up with stowing bags or they would be left behind!

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Must have been a throughput day :D (Do they still do those??)

 

Remember back in the day the had those and would play non themed music (chart) to motivate the staff to get through as many people as they could!!

 

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5 hours ago, Mattgwise said:

Must have been a throughput day :D (Do they still do those??)

 

Remember back in the day the had those and would play non themed music (chart) to motivate the staff to get through as many people as they could!!

 

That did really add to the atmosphere.

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I’m going to be controversial here and say that as much I love the themes music, there. Are definitely times in the season where the use of chart/general Music on the rides wouldn’t go  a miss. For example the Ministry Of Sound and Love Island lates where it would give a different vibe to the park/areas and perhaps be advantage to both guests and staff.

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Had a great evening at Thorpe Park, but kind of frustrating that you get on only two rides in last hour as they want to take off the second train on all the coasters. Defeats the whole object of supposedly getting in lots of rides in last hour. The queues were 10 - 15 mins on two trains, so wasn't like it was completely empty. 

 

I feel for the staff with this too as Swarm still had probably a 20 - 30 minute queue at ten with only one train, meaning they wouldn't finish as quickly as if it was left on two.

 

Nemesis Inferno was painfully slow this evening with trains regularly dispatching at 3 and half to 4 minute intervals. Good job that was on two trains whilst I queued!

 

 

 

 

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Whilst attending Colossus on Friday, the loading was painfully slow with several times rechecks of harnesses and restraints being done five times, the team were also very slow at releasing once those checks were done. When I arrived I thought I'd grab a front seat as there were only enough riders for five trains in front of me, by the time I got loaded, the ten minute queue had gone to 75minutes.

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After visiting the park last Saturday on the 29th September leading up to Fright Nights, I feel now is a good time to voice some big concerns I have with the way several rides are being operated not just across Thorpe, but other Merlin parks such as Alton and Chessington. This problem has been getting worse and worse as 2018 has progressed and up until the start of 2017, this was never an issue before until now. But last Saturday demonstrated this system has now gone too far, and this is regarding the use of priority or disabled passes by guests. 

 

Now, I understand this may be a discussion which can be quite sensitive to some readers and I am not criticising or demeaning those who use these passes that have a genuine disability, but I am going to pick at the way the parks manage this system because it has reached boiling point after my experience last weekend and here's why with some examples I've experienced this year and indeed last weekend. Used spoiler tags for each example to keep this post shorter:


(Saturday 29th September - Colossus) 

 

Me and my friend joined Colossus' queue around 2pm and we saw the queue was reaching back to the 2nd tunnel, so theoretically, with a two train service, this should have been just a 30 minute queue. However, we both commented on how slow this queue was moving as we stood there waiting and wondered what was going on.


The first change we noticed was the merging point where a staff member checks the guests tickets was not being used and there was a long line leading all the way up into the station, meaning roughly another 10 minutes would be added. Not the first time I've seen them operate this way, but then once inside the station, things started adding up why it was being done like this.

It turns out the exit through Colossus' station leading into the gift shop was being used as a queue for both Fastrack and disabled guests and I kid you not, there must have been about 50 people waiting in the line with it crawling all the way into the gift shop. Yes, really. For some inexplicable reason, the park are now using the ride's exit for both disabled and Fastrack users.

Initially, this was alright as 4 rows of each train were closed off and used only for these guests, but that changed quickly. This queue was getting so large the ride operators decided in order to stop this queue getting any larger, they decided to fill two entire trains (56 people max) of guests to cut it down. As a result, the gates for people in the main queue refused to open with two dispatches and with the amount of faff involved with checking each pass, putting bags away and guest picking seats, another 15 minutes were added to everyone in the main queue, and this all occurred right in front of our eyes. People including myself were getting very frustrated by this in the station as we had waited 50 minutes already just to reach the gates. Another 15 unnecessary minutes added to this made it all worse.

Using just 4 rows of seats is alright, but two entire trains because the number of people using these priority passes was so large they couldn't handle the queue? I don't care what excuse there is, this is absolutely ridiculous and was incredibly unfair for those in the main queue and should never have occurred.

 

(August Bank Holiday - Th13teen)

 

It's a similar story to Colossus above, only this time, the flaws in the priority pass system were exposed better than ever.


The main queue reached what should have been just 20 minutes, but it turned out we waited nearly an hour to ride because the number of people using the exit as disabled guests was absurdly long. From the main queue, I could see at least 30 people constantly waiting up the exit path to get on the trains, which in this case were the last two rows of seats - the best seats annoyingly.

Now, in most cases, I would be alright with this, but by the time we reached the station where a staff member batches you into your rows, things got worse. Given two rows were being allocated just for disabled guests, 8 remained. 4 of these 8 were being used by Fastrack also, which means the main queue was only being used for just a mere 40% of the train. 60% of every train dispatch was being used for Fastrack/disabled. Extremely aggravating.

As we took our seats, we were delayed at dispatching from the station as I saw from the exit a father with his disabled daughter was beginning to shout and talk directly with some other guests in the disabled queue. Whilst I couldn't hear what was being said from a distance between them, it was clear to me what was happening and decided to listen in when leaving the station after our ride.

After we made it back to the station and left, the father was still there arguing with the other guest and it was apparent why. This man had a disabled priority pass and behind him were about 20 more people which must have all been his family. The father was shouting "You get in the queue like everyone else and be fair!" He clearly lost his rag with this enormous group of people and kept on pointing out the priority pass does not allow groups larger than 3 (I think) to use this priority entrance. He was angered 20 people without a disability were cheating the main queue to get on before everyone else, at the expense of those waiting with a real disability and honestly, I commend him for standing up to this group.

Admittedly, this was the group's fault as they either misread the T&C's or he was trying to get away with getting his entire family onboard, but this was the first time I discovered a single priority pass can allow up to 3 carers to accompany them.

 

(Every visit in 2018 - Derren Brown's Ghost Train)

 

The next time you ride this, keep your eye out on how many people you see using the disabled queue. On my last visit, there was an endless flow of people pouring through the disabled entrance, along with Fastrack.


Where I stood in the line, it theoretically should have taken just 20 minutes to get inside and batched, but the staff member was every time allowing everyone in both the disabled and Fastrack queue to fill each of the two bays before the main queue fills the rest. Basically, the ratio was 50:50 in favour of main to disabled/Fastrack and the waiting time took nearly 45 minutes as a result.

This is not the first time I have experienced this, but every single time I join the queue for this ride this year now. The staff are unfairly dividing groups into the attraction and effectively doubling the waiting time for guests in the main queue as a result, which explains why this ride is constantly getting 90+ minute queues all the time now. If you eliminate the disabled/Fastrack guests, it would have taken just 30 minutes or less in most cases, thus proving too many people are using both the disabled and Fastrack entrances due to the 3-person rule as mentioned above.

 

(September 2018 - Vampire)

 

Here it's the same old story. The 3 back rows of seats were allocated to the disabled guests and staff were not batching the main queue into these rows, meaning 25% of every train was reserved just for those with priority passes.


Now, this would be alright for the most part given only a handful of people were using the queue on the day, but when it was empty on a couple of dispatches, the staff still refused to fill these seats with guests from the main queue to keep things in full swing and so, I saw two trains dispatch with 6 empty seats in the back after each other which I found incredibly frustrating, as if they weren't fenced off for those disabled guests, I could've happily filled those empty seats.

 

(Opening day 2018 - Wicker Man)

 

Finally, this is when the use of the disabled entrance became too much, as it resulted in queues of 3 hours for the main line.


When the ride reopened in the afternoon due to weight problems and 3 rows were fenced off to temporarily fix this problem, the Fastrack and disabled queues were filled to the absolute brim and at the merging point just before the baggage hold area, staff were allocating the main/Fastrack/disabled queue evenly, meaning one in every three guests going into the pre-show and station were from the main queue only.

With a reduced capacity, enormous queue and slow dispatches that day, this was ludicrous and demonstrated to me far too many people were using these priority passes between themselves and all their friends at once. If it weren't for the huge number of people using these passes, the main queue would have been just over 90 minutes long I reckon despite the capacity reduction.

 

Before 2017, this system never really posed any problems or frustrations in the past at any of the Merlin parks, but every time I visit any of the parks now, the number of people I am seeing using these ride access passes has increased dramatically, so much so that in most cases, they are in fact longer than the Fastrack queues and this poses a huge problem. All the main queues for every ride across every park are moving so slowly now that it makes Spinball Whizzer's queue look like nothing these days. What should be short & quick queues on quiet days are now doubling in length for the most part across the majority of rides at Thorpe, and I have noticed this on every visit I have made this year.

Staff on most attractions are allocating far more seats to those with a priority/disabled pass to the point where as highlighted with Colossus above, they are now filling entire trains of these people in order to keep the length of them down. With Fright Nights soon approaching where queues will hit their maximum lengths, I am deeply worried many attractions are going to have some horrendous queueing experiences for guests not only in the main queue, but also the disabled and Fastrack ones where they will need to also wait longer because of the quantity of people that are now using these passes.

I'm unsure what solution I can suggest to prevent this getting further out of control, but this needs to be brought to attention because the situation is getting worse and worse every visit I make and nobody else is talking about this ever-growing problem shockingly. I need to be careful with how I word this, but something needs to change with the allocation of these passes because right now, I am seeing the disabled entrance as nothing more than just another Fastrack queue given many people through my eyes don't look like they have a disability. And for those with a genuine disability such as being in a wheelchair, I find this incredibly unfair for them, just like the father at the example with Th13teen I mentioned above.

I can only ever dream of a queue system similar to the likes of Phantasialand and Europa Park, but understand this will never happen sadly. As it stands, not one of the three queues at Merlin parks is a win for guests, so something needs to change to keep this from degrading and getting worse.

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Another excellent post @Marhelorpe.

 

It's a bit of a "hot potato" to discuss but it's clear the system is broken and/or being abused/flouted beyond what it was intended for - that group of TWENTY people on one pass being a perfect case in point.

 

I understand people have needs and reasons, but I can't help but think the popularity of the internet and therefore awareness of RAP's on groups such as the MAP group means they are being abused for the very slightest reasons purely to maximise the number of rides and minimise the queuing time vs. non RAP users.

 

It wouldn't surprise me if Merlin are scared to refuse a RAP to a guest for fear of reprisals on social media, the press etc. which is a sorry state of affairs but that sums up the grabbing, want-want-want and superiority complex that an increasing number of the population seem to have. Did someone say VIP MAP lanyard? *cough*

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There's no disabled system in place at the likes of Phantasialand or Europa (or any German park) due to the laws... It's a bit of a weird one...

 

It's only the Merlin parks that seem to have such an issue though, not sure what BPB is like with disabled passes, but the ones in Europe with them seem to be fine (DLP does struggle on certain rides though, BTM especially)...

 

10 years ago we were told as staff to batch a ratio of 60:40 for standard to Fastrack... One can only assume this has changed significantly over the years, and the way in which RAP is termed this days as "free Fastrack" does not help the idea behind it... Short of changing it to be must have a blue badge or PIP (I.e. the government has checked this person and determined that they are disabled in such a way that it affects their quality of life) they are limited to what they can do, as even some people who have been classed as disabled by doctors aren't by the government (because they're backwards morons)...

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Europa park do have a system it just isnt very well used or known of, I know phantasialand are abit weird with disabilities full stop so we never even asked, (heard of numerous issues/horror stories). Portaventura also have a system in place and it is used alot more frequently than the other EU parks.

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Phantasialand and Movie Park both said "NEIN!" (obviously nicely, but German is a very aggressive language ;))

 

Port Aventura also deny it if you're not utterly broken, which is where the issue lies for the most part... What constitutes as a disability in one park might not elsewhere... Think PA reserve it for wheelchair users only (which is slightly ridiculous, as not everyone needs to be in one)... 

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