Alton Towers Opens Virtual Reality Roller Coaster ‘Galactica’

Alton Towers, a popular resort in the United Kingdom, plans to open up a roller coaster where passengers don a virtual-reality headset. The park is based in Staffordshire, according to the BBC, and it’s the first debut of a bigger ride since one of Alton Towers’ coasters crashed in June, seriously injuring five people.

“Galactica uses groundbreaking technology to give riders a breathtaking and completely unique rollercoaster experience,” Gil Riley, Marketing Director at Alton Towers resorts recently said.

“Tim Peake captured the imagination of millions of Brits last year when he set off on his mission to the International Space Station – and now our visitors can become astronauts, too. There is nowhere else in the world that people can experience the feeling of a flying rollercoaster combined with soaring through the universe. For two minutes, our guests will be transported into space and we believe Galactica showcases the future for theme parks around the world. It’s a complete game-changer.”

Whether famous parks like Disney and Universal will follow suit remains to be seen. Judging on the constantly improving revenue stream of both companies, it’s safe to assume they’re doing just fine without this new technology.

This “multi-pound” investment is much safer than other rides, and that’s something Gil Riley was particularly pleased with. “Obviously the safety and welfare of our guests is our number one priority,” she said.

“Following the incident last year, we immediately put into effect additional safety protocols on our multi-car rollercoasters, of which this is one.”

The Guardian reports that the ride will last 189 seconds, and hit a maximum speed of 46 mph. Artificial Intelligence guides the riders from the launch pad into space, where they begin their journey through universes and other planets.

Gil continued, “In addition, once this ride is installed, as with every other new ride and experience, it will be subject to comprehensive pre-opening assessment [by us] and by an accredited independent inspection body.”

The ride carries 28 passengers at a time, with about 1,500 passengers able to ride per hour. It seems like Alton Towers is trying to bolster their image a little bit, which is understandable given last year’s accident.

On June 2, two women had their legs amputated after the carriage they were riding in on The Smiler collided with an empty carriage. Fourteen people were also injured.

“A ride shutdown message was misunderstood by staff at the ride,” Gil said. “We have enhanced our training and also included an extra level of authorisation when we have to stop and reset and restart a ride, which involves senior management.”

The Smiler is set to reopen in 2016.

Despite the shortcomings of the park, Alton Towers is still remaining financially stable. In fact, Merlin Entertainments is the company that owns Alton Towers, Legoland, and even The Orlando Eye.

“Certainly, the accident at Alton Towers has been difficult for Merlin and been a drag on its performance, which is not surprising,” said Keith Bowman, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“But other parts of the business — Legoland in particular — have been making progress and generally compensating for this.”

If what Gil Riley says is true, Alton Towers is going to change the theme park industry with Galactica, and hopefully riders will remain safe with the new precautions and training methods they’ve been implementing.

[Image via Alton Towers Resort/PA]