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Thorpe Park Trip Report - 27th March, Bit late... RANT time
post Apr 6 2009, 12:01 PM
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From: Bristol / Oxford
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Again, it's been a long time coming, but here are some thoughts on a recent(ish) Thorpe Park visit from over a week ago – Friday 27th March. Prepare yourself for a long read! I had planned the trip for a while, as I wanted to give Saw a try out, but avoid the Easter Holidays. However, the trip was thrown into jeopardy thanks to Thorpe's standard ride reliability - both Saw and Stealth were listed as down on the website a couple of days before the visit. I did phone customer service to ask about the chances of both rides opening on the Friday, and to their credit, they did phone me back, saying both should be available.

So I took a gamble and made the two hour drive from Bristol – as it was, I think every ride did open at some point during the day, so I guess Thorpe had a 'good' day. But it's a very loose definition of 'good'. The day begins badly. We arrive at 9:40, thinking that'd be plenty of time to get tickets before the 10am opening. Surprisingly, there are a fair few people about, including a few school parties – but nothing to be too worried about. However, getting tickets proved a real chore. There were, I'd guess, about 300 people in the queue to get entrance tickets… and just THREE booths open. One cashier to about one hundred people… ridiculous. Queue took 30mins, and got into the park at 10:15ish. Not a good start to the day.

I suppose luckily for us – we hadn't 'missed' anything. Three of the four coasters were down, with only Inferno operating – on one train I may add. Thus this had a 20-30minute queue already. We therefore decided to hit off the non-coaster rides, such as Detonator and Rush, all virtually walk-ons. Rush really is a decent ride – it's just a shame it's on a short cycle. Soon after, Stealth opened – on one train operation. Luckily we got there almost immediately after it opened. It continued to operate periodically throughout the day – opening for 45mins, then breaking down for 45mins etc etc. Stealth is a good ride, but with one train operation, it's neither long enough nor brilliant enough to be worth a lengthy queue.

Stealth then broke down, so we then wandered around the rest of the park, with the intention of heading to Saw. We literally ended up wandering around the park, looking for a ride to do, but Loggers Leap, Slammer and X:/ No Way Out were all down too. The rides which were open had lengthy queues, due to there being so few other rides open – Colossus for example must have opened 15mins before, but already had a 60min queue (one train operation also). Ended up doing Flying Fish with a good enthusiastic ride op, and then unfortunately queued around 15mins for Depth Charge, despite there being about 16 people in the queue – AWFUL dispatching. That aside, I'd say the staff were overall pretty good today and attempted to help you enjoy your day. But this is the thing with Thorpe – you really have to try to enjoy your day.

Thankfully, as the day wore on, Saw did open (I'll get to that in a minute) and both Inferno and Colossus added a second train. Coupled with a fair few school trips leaving the park early-afternoon, and the park as a whole got significantly quieter - although I wonder whether everyone was simply stuck waiting in the HUGE Saw queue. This allowed us to get on Inferno for three laps, with basically no wait. Inferno's not a patch on Nemesis, but is in my opinion, Thorpe's best ride – it provides a solid, smooth and enjoyable ride. A consistent sure-fire bet, unlike Stealth for instance. Shame the tunnel effects still aren't working though. The Rapids did have all its features working, which is a surprise… but they really need them on to spruce up what surely is the dullest rapids-ride circuit ever created. Talking of pointless - X:/ No Way Out - why don't they just gut the thing? It really is a terrible, terrible ride. Not only is the whole thing nauseating, but the ride itself is no fun whatsoever and is perhaps the most pointless, stupid, stop-start coaster ever.

So… Saw. This was the main reason for a visit, and coupled with its poor reliability and seemingly poor capacity, I naturally was keeping my eyes glued to it all day, to ensure I was over there as soon as it opened. It had been sending cars out all morning, at a particularly high frequency at around 11:30, so over there we went, and sure enough, it opened soon after, ensuring we were in the first 20 or so in line. Got into the station… two cars sent out. Boom. Break-down. Couldn't believe it. They opened it up, and then two cars later, it's down… and properly down. The queue-line gets cleared. Luckily for us, we were in the station and thus got Exit Passes – these proved pretty crucial later on. It then reopened around 2pm, and even though we got there almost immediately after it opened, the queue was already size-able as people had been milling about – thus our exit passes were used. Got into the station, two cars sent out… boom. Break-down. Fortunately, this time, they had kept the engineers in the station, and the ride was up and running again shortly. Got on the ride (review coming) and when I went back to it at 3pm, the queue was 120mins long. This on a quiet day. Oh dear.

Review time. First of all, credit to Thorpe Park for choosing a theme which would fit in with their general approach to their park. A grey dingy abandoned saw-mine with barbed wire fences in the queue-line. Jeez, they can let it degrade all they like, and claim it's theming. Great park strategy. People are saying it's one of the best themed rides in the UK… I'd say it's pretty good, but it's definitely how I envision Thorpe Park's attempt at 'good theming' would look like. I like how the ride has its own little island. Despite being small, it looks quite imposing from eye-view – the blades are cool, the station building looks intriguing. The queue is… well… boring from what I can tell. Tall barbed wire fences. Might be good at Scarefest. I would have liked to see more of an indoor queue-line, but alas, there's only a tiny bit, before you then get sent up straight to the station. The indoor section of queue seemed to play on the fact that you thought the experience was supposed to be scary – you were expecting something to happen… but nothing really ever did. A few bangs here and there, a few loud noises. Whoop-de-whoop. The station is quite atmospheric, without there being much to it.

If I wasn't already worried about the ride's throughput – given the small 8-person cars, its poor reliability and its obvious popularity – I am positively dreading how this thing will cope in the Easter holidays. I notice how the station has a countdown timer, which presumably is a dispatch-time aim for the crew… well, this was NOT being met, not even close. Granted it's a new ride, so reliability and dispatch-times will improve… but even so, my fears were confirmed – on today, a QUIET day, Saw had a 120min queue at 3pm. This is probably the scariest thing about the ride itself – 1. Will you get to ride it? 2. If so, how long will you have to wait for it?

So anyway, everything's been put aside… what about the ride itself. The queue hasn't overly impressed me, despite claims of a horror-themed coaster (which I still think is a great idea) – but will the ride itself? Well, it was pretty much as I expected. I always said the ride was going to be 6 or 7/10 and it was the theming and experience as a whole which could raise that score. I'd give it a 7/10 as a whole… some bits were surprisingly more enjoyable than I thought they'd be, others not as good as I thought they'd be. The indoor section is cool and definitely the best part of the ride. (Slight spoilers ahead.) The theming is decent. The section with the surprise steep drop (must be nearly vertical?) is excellent. The indoor section does last a little longer than I thought it would… but still left me wanting it to be even longer. It's definitely the ride's highlight. The barrel roll out of the building is a bit 'meh' – the body under it is a nice touch, but with the light streaming in from outside, the bare concrete surroundings are overly exposed. I think this element would have worked better earlier in the circuit, in total darkness, which would have surprised riders a lot more… as it is, you can see it coming. The pre-lift bit, with the plasma screens and chains is quite cool… and the lift itself – as is the case with all Eurofighters – is a definite highlight, building up a fair bit of tension.

Then the actual ride – here the theming effectively ends, and it's just a normal Eurofighter… well, Speed at Oakwood is by FAR better. The drop was quite weak in my opinion; it didn't have the same sort of 'oh my God' factor that even Speed has – it was just nothing special, perhaps due to the ride not being very big. The blades work as a visual feature for non-riders, but not for the actual riders themselves. I didn't really notice any of this 'roughness' which some have complained about. The rest of the ride was all very standard, and didn't really offer anything that Thorpe doesn't already have. It's all just ok. The airtime hill is ok, the overbanks are ok. The final inversion was very good though – nicely paced – but then the finale is a little weak with just a turn into the brakes, then back to the station.

So, considering the actual ride part – it's very short and 'standard', and not as good as the other Thorpe coasters – nor as good as other Eurofighters. It's small and doesn't really deliver anything different. The pre-ride bit IS good – but isn't good enough to make me rate Saw much higher than a 6 or 7/10. It's a shame that the ride segment isn't themed at all, and a shame that the finale also has no theming or sense of closure. The queue-line also isn't as good as I'd have hoped. I guess I wasn't disappointed in it… but other than being another ride to do at Thorpe, I didn't feel it offered that much extra as an overall package. Worth a ride, but not worth a trip to Thorpe especially for it – glad I got on it, but not desperate for a return visit. Especially if I'll have to queue ages for it. I haven't been on Mystery Mine at Dollywood, so can't really compare… but having seen videos and pictures, Saw screams of Thorpe's cheap knock-off version of it.

Just to round off the trip report, whilst everyone was in the Saw queue, we were able to hit off everything else, including (the ever roughening) Colossus – and get ready for my biggest gripe of the day. The queue was just out of the station – a 3 or 4 train wait. Just as we got to the front, they announced they would close the ride 'to remove a train'. This whole process of removing a train caused the ride to be down for 15-20mins when the ride-op announced it would 'take just a second', and I even heard 'does anyone know how to do a block reset?' over the speaker. Ok, I accept that if it's quiet, one train operation is a way to cut costs. BUT the queue for Colossus was hardly a walk-on, and hardly warranted one-train operation. Furthermore, removing a train then caused an unnecessary additional wait – by the time I got off the ride, given that loads of people had joined the queue during the shut-down, and now there was only one train, I reckon the wait was now 30mins. So yeh, I accept it as a cost-cutting measure in some circumstances, but it reeked of more lack of care for the customer. After poor reliability and capacity throughout the day, the removal of the train effectively amounted to 'we're going to increase the queue time for you… again'. I couldn't believe it. It's just… so poor.

Again – compare this with Alton, which I visited 5 days later – Nemesis was a walk-on all afternoon, but still had two trains going round. Shows the immense difference in the way the parks are run. Alton seemed to be trying to cut your queue-time wherever possible… Thorpe actually seemed to be intentionally trying to lengthen it. Thorpe just don't seem fussed about customer satisfaction, and in the end, this will come back to haunt them… I mean, I usually visit two to three times a year, but now, why would I go back to the horrors of Thorpe Park's operations when I can drive the extra hour to a better park with better rides and better levels of customer service? It's just such a lack of care on Thorpe's behalf – even a ride like Miss Hippo closing stinks of it. "We can't be bothered to operate this ride anymore to save money. We aren't going to replace it with anything. We're going to just take down the sign and leave it." Ok, Miss Hippo wasn't very good, but it was a nice, sit-down break from the usual spinny rides, and to be fair, had better reliability than basically every other ride in the park.

The whole crux of the problem with Thorpe Park is that they don't seem to care how good your day is, as long as they get you through those gates, and even on a relatively quiet day today – like this one - you're immediately struggling to enjoy yourself. To get on all the rides, and queue acceptable lengths for them – is a real struggle. The rides open late, then break down frequently throughout the day… there are times when multiple rides are closed. This causes the open rides – most of which have an average capacity/throughput at best – to have large queues – which obviously isn't aided by one-train operation! Compare this to Alton, which despite it having more rides, has BY FAR less breakdowns and has everything running at absolute maximum capacity.

The rides at Thorpe are overall quite decent, and are still the obvious draw for punters. It's a shame that they're all a little short and similar – and I don't think Saw has really added much to the mix – but they're all decent… provided you don't have to queue ages for them. But as today shows, I was immediately faced with an uphill battle to ride everything I wanted to, with acceptable queue lengths. This on a relatively quiet day and a relatively good day for Thorpe's trademark terrible ride reliability. I dread to think what it'll be like on a busier day. It's shocking that even though today's ride availability and reliability was poor compared to your average theme park… for Thorpe Park it was actually quite good.

Thorpe's ride line-up used to be their ace in the sleeve no matter what, but it's got to the point now where the 'dominant' factor is their terrible park operations and poor ride reliability – it makes a visit to Thorpe fairly unpleasurable, and as I say, you do face an uphill battle to enjoy yourself by getting on everything you want without queuing ages for it… It's a struggle. And that really defeats the point in going to a theme park, which by their very nature should provide fun rather than frustration. Now that I've fortunately got on Saw, there's no real reason or burning desire for me to return this year… What a shame, as this was a park which around five years ago was destined to top Alton. As it stands, it's light-years away.


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post Sep 6 2010, 12:36 PM
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From: Sarf Yorkshire
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You have the subtlety of a brick!

This post has been edited by meames: Sep 7 2010, 7:59 AM


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post Nov 8 2010, 2:17 PM
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First, thanks for posting such a detailed trip report. I, for one, really appreciate it as we will be making our first visit there next year...and alas..it will be during the Easter Break. So your experiences will be really useful as we plan our ride strategies!
Again, it's been a long time coming, but here are some thoughts on a recent(ish) Thorpe Park visit from over a week ago – Friday 27th March. Prepare yourself for a long read! I had planned the trip for a while, as I wanted to give Saw a try out, but avoid the Easter Holidays. However, the trip was thrown into jeoardy thanks to Thorpe's standard ride reliability - both Saw and Stealth were listed as down on the website a couple of days before the visit. I did phone customer service to ask about the chances of both rides opening on the Friday, and to their credit, they did phone me back, saying both should be available.

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