Alton Towers Resort have submitted an application to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to confirm the lawfulness of maintenance works to Nemesis, with the intention of increasing the rollercoaster’s lifespan.
The application seeks to confirm the lawfulness of the work, which in simpler terms aims to provide the Council with the relevant information to formally clarify that a full planning application is not necessary. It is proposed that the majority of the roller coaster’s track sections will be replaced, including 89 of the 117 supports, along with work to strengthen and improve the foundations.
A full run down of the work proposed as follows:
- Replacement of coaster track from the crest of the lift hill, to the start of the brake run.
- Replacement of 89 of the 117 supports in these areas.
- Removal of 636 bolts which will be replaced and re-grouted.
- Localised maintenance undertaken to the theming and buildings as required.
- The tunnel section below the maintenance building will be retained as existing, and the coaster track which runs through the tunnel replaced alongside the structural beam.
- Footers will be strengthened in limited locations, and an additional foundation installed for a support on the downwards helix, which has received modifications in the past.
- The replacement track and supports will follow the existing layout and design, and will have the same appearance externally.
In addition to the works ensuring safety standards are maintained while keeping within the existing overall design, an additional benefit is that the coaster track will be sand filled, which will reduce noise levels to the benefit of the site and local area. The current track does not have this feature as the method was not widely used when the ride was first constructed. Early B&M roller coasters are famous for their loud roar when in operation, which is produced when the train travels over the track causing an echo in the hollow spine interior. Although the signature roar that Nemesis is known for will be sad to lose, Alton Towers are committed to being good neighbours to the surrounding area, and must make efforts to reduce noise produced from the Resort when opportunities arise.
The following will be unaffected by the proposed maintenance work:
- The 28 supports located below the station building (6 pairs of columns), the station exit (6 columns) and the ride lift hill (5 pairs of columns) do not need to be replaced and will be retained.
- There are 112 rock anchors in some of the foundations below the supports which effectively fix the structure to the rock. These are steel bars approximately 9-10 metres in length. The rock anchors have been tested, and all 112 rock anchors will be retained. There are 43 other steel bars which are of a different design which also support columns. These will also be retained.
- The station building will be retained and so too will the theming – as noted above, localised maintenance to the theming will be undertaken as required.
- The maintenance and emergency access steps alongside the lift hill, track and supports.
- Retaining walls will be unaffected by the proposed maintenance works and will be retained as existing.
- The tunnels themselves within the development.
- The maintenance building and plant room.
- The photography building.
- The queue line, pathways and fencing.
- No trees will be removed as a result of the proposed works.
- Once the maintenance works are complete there will be no change to levels on site.
Originally opening in 1994, Nemesis soon became one the world’s most most highly regarded Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) Inverted Coasters, and quickly put Alton Towers on the map for thrill seekers. World-renowned attraction designer John Wardley collaborated with B&M, Ing.-Büro Stengel GmbH, and Tussauds Studios to create a one-of-a-kind ride. Codenamed SW3, Nemesis was the first project which came to fruition from the Secret Weapon series, which then set the precedence for future roller coasters at the theme park that we know and love today.
The proposed work is significant in safeguarding Nemesis for future generations of guests to enjoy, and is only the second example of a B&M roller coaster to partially receive a replacement structure. In 2015, the Incredible Hulk at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, closed for a major overhaul. This very popular attraction received new track and supports from the highest point to the brake run (in similar fashion to what is proposed for Nemesis), new trains, and an updated ride control system. Once the new structure was installed, it was interesting to note some differences in design of the new track and supports – for example the track spine in some high stress areas was larger, replacement of cylindrical supports at lower levels with an I-beam style, and a discontinuation of the ‘ball and socket’ connections between track and supports which was replaced with a rigid connection to reduce movement. See the following before and after images to note the amendments to the design of the ride. Credit to Coaster101.com for the second image.
The design of B&M attractions over the years has been perfected, so although only speculation at this point, it is likely that Nemesis will receive the above design improvements as technology and expertise has progressed. Although new B&M rides can be purchased with an updated train design featuring vest restraints, it is not anticipated that Nemesis will receive a different design of train to the existing, as the clearance envelopes would not accommodate the wider newer design. It is prudent to note that the application does not make any mention of the ride vehicles being replaced, however we can safely assume that the two existing trains are coming to the end of their life and will be replaced alongside the structure.
We are pleased that Alton Towers Resort and Merlin Entertainments recognise the importance of maintaining such a world class attraction like Nemesis, and are glad that the ride will continue running for many years to come, albeit a little quieter. Although no timeline for the maintenance work has been published, we expect it will be completed in time for the 2024 season, when the ride will be 30 years old. Stay tuned to TowersTimes as we continue to cover this major milestone in the history of Nemesis.
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