Just one year after the opening of Air (now Galactica), Alton Towers’ most technologically advanced roller coaster, we expected they would continue to install attractions to keep the park up to speed with the industry, little did we know that something so huge was in the pipeline for 2005!
Wooden rollercoasters were already popular amongst enthusiasts and, with the likes of Megaphobia opening in Oakwood, they were gaining more respect from the general public. It’s always been known that John Wardley’s dream was to build a woodie in a UK park, but Alton Towers presented an array of issues due to the strict local planning issues with regards to noise levels, deforestation and the tree line.
On March 3rd 2003, Alton Towers submitted plans to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for a giant wooden rollercoaster, stretching over from a site behind Ug Land to Forbidden Valley! The scale of this out and back roller coaster was huge and with near 200ft drops in the site’s topography it had the potential to be one of the world’s most exciting rides. We visited the planning office on Tuesday 18th March, obtaining the following information and images of the plans.
The proposed wooden rollercoaster was an out and back ride, with the station located in an area behind Corkscrew’s photo booth, meaning the existing ride wouldn’t have been affected. The trains, with a capacity of 30 guests (5 cars of 6 people), would exit the station and climb a lift hill up to tree level. The layout then makes its way out towards Forbidden Valley through the woodlands, navigating a number of turns and drops with the track keeping quite close to the terrain, resulting in drops of around 200ft. The layout would have come within feet of Galactica (then Air), appearing through the woodlands near its queue line bridge where a second lift hill, slightly smaller than the first, would have been located. The coaster would then travel back towards Dark Forest (then Ug Land), through the woodlands.
All new rides at Alton Towers have to meet strict planning regulations due to the nature of the Resort’s site. The first problem to overcome is the tree line; rides should not spoil the view and go above the tree line. The proposed coaster was mostly below the tree line with the exception of the second lift hill, which came to about the same height as Galactica’s inline twist. According to the supplementary tree guide, 142 trees would have needed to be removed (12% of trees in ride area, but less than 2% in the woodland area), with all these trees listed by height, type, exact location and condition in the planning documents. It is understandable that trees would have to unavoidably be removed, but this number may have posed some concern for the environmental agency and local authority. A supplementary report included data from Megaphobia at Oakwood, stating that noise pollution alone wouldn’t have provided grounds to dismiss this application.
A meeting was scheduled to take place in the first week of April 2003 to determine the outcome of the application. Had the application been successful it would likely have been a world record breaking rollercoaster, hence why it was stated to be aimed at adults and older teenagers, most probably the 18-21 age bracket that Oblivion was marketed at.
Unfortunately the wooden roller coaster plans were withdrawn, due to issues regarding the noise and height of the coaster. Alton Towers said they intended to resubmit an amended plans but these never came to fruition.
However, in April 2015, around 12 years on from the rejection of the original plans, it appeared Alton Towers were reconsidering the prospect of installing a wooden coaster. A ‘Formal Screening Option’ gave details of a ride of “timber truss construction”, indicating at least a wooden hybrid if not a full woodie, to be located on the side of the valley closest to Forbidden Valley. Unfortunately, it seems the plans have once again been abandoned following a difficult year for the Resort in 2015 as a result of the incident on The Smiler in June 2015.