After a massive negative response to the changes across social networking and enthusiast sites, clarification has now been posted by Merlin in a “note” published on Facebook. Here’s a rundown of the changes confirmed so far.

Current passholders
Current passholders will continue to receive free parking for the duration of their current pass

Standard Merlin Annual Pass
For 2011, the standard Merlin Annual Pass will gain the addition of entry to Madame Tussaud’s Blackpool (formerly Louis Tussaud’s) once it opens in April 2011 and the attractions at Blackpool Tower once refurbishment is complete in 2011.

In addition, there will be additional date restrictions on the pass. No entry will be permitted to Legoland Windsor before 2pm during August. Blackpool Tower attractions will not allow entry to Standard Pass holders during 22nd October – 30th October.

Parking charges will not be included within this pass to new passholders.

Merlin have recommended this pass as useful to those who visit around 4 times per year during off peak periods. The Standard Pass will be priced lower than 2010’s usual price, to reflect the additional restrictions:

Individuals – £145 inc. VAT
Family of 3, 4 or 5 – £95 inc. VAT

Premium Merlin Annual Pass
The Premium Annual Pass was recently introduced as a way of customer’s purchasing a pass with no restrictions whatsoever. The initial price of £200 was poorly received by members of TowersTimes and, presumably by the wider market. As a result, prices of the Premium Annual Pass have been reviewed:

Individuals – £175 inc. VAT
Family of 3, 4 or 5 – £125 inc. VAT

The premium annual pass also includes free parking.

Upgrade prices have yet to be released by Merlin, although it has been stated an offer will be available for current passholders to upgrade to the Premium Pass from 2011 at less than the cost of a £150 standard pass. Further information regarding this is due to be released tomorrow (Wednesday 15th December).

The response across social networks, enthusiast sites and even from other themeparks to the changes has been huge. Here on TowersTimes, a large topic has developed with plenty of lively discussion regarding the changes. Over on Merlin’s Official Annual Pass Facebook page, large numbers of fans have been venting their anger and disappointment over the changes. A Facebook protest page has also emerged, with 166 members at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, rival parks have been quick to capitalise on the changes, with North Yorkshire park Lightwater Valley taking to Facebook and Twitter to remind customers their parking will remain free. Likewise, local Staffordshire rivals Drayton Manor has been keen to remind fans via their Facebook page that car parking will remain free for their customers.

TowersTimes have also attempted to contact Alton Towers for comment, but as of yet have not received a reply.

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