The Health and Safety Executive have announced today that they are to prosecute Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, the division of Merlin Entertainments which is responsible for the operation of Alton Towers Resort, over the incident on The Smiler on 2nd June 2015.
In a statement released this morning, the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd are due to appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April 2016 to face a charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act which relates to the protection of members of the public and ensuring they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. The charge being brought states that “On and before the 2nd June 2015… Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd failed to discharge the duty imposed on it by section 3(1) of the Act, in that it failed to conduct its undertaking, namely the operation of its Alton Towers Resort, in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment who may have been affected thereby, were not exposed to risks to their health or safety, namely the risks associated with the operation of the Smiler roller coaster.” Speaking about the decision to prosecute, Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said:
“We have today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted for
breaching health and safety law.
“This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.
“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”
Back in November 2015, Alton Towers Resort released a statement saying that their internal investigations confirmed ‘Human Error’ as the cause of the incident on 2nd June last year which saw a train carrying sixteen passengers collide with a stalled empty train on the batwing element of the ride causing significant injuries to five of those passengers. The resort also saw a significant drop in attendance figures as a result of the accident with the usually busy summer period being much quieter than expected.
The news from the HSE comes as Merlin Entertainments announced that pre-tax profits across the group rose 0.3% compared to 2014 to £250 million, although like for like sales in the Theme Park Division fell 12.4%. Total visitor numbers for the whole group increased by 0.3% to 62.9 million, however figures for the Theme Park Division attendance have not been released, although it is thought there was particularly strong trading in LEGOLAND Parks. In a statement, Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments Chief Executive Officer, said:
“2015 was a difficult year for Merlin following the accident at Alton Towers early in the summer season. The safety of our guests and employees must always come first and we have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened on 2 June.”
Alton Towers Resort will be looking to move forward for the new season with both new offerings, including the Rollercoaster Restaurant opening in May, and Galactica opening in April, as well as their Towers Loving Care programme – a three year project to completely refresh the Resort which so far has included a re-paint of Nemesis, and refreshes for a number of areas across the Resort. Although the Resort have previously stated it is their intention to re-open The Smiler during 2016 there is not yet any confirmed date when this will happen.
With the 2016 season just over three weeks away we’ll continue to bring you all the latest developments from Alton Towers Resort. Make sure you have your say on all the latest developments on the Attraction Source Forum.