Alton Towers is to open what it claims is the world’s first rollercoaster that combines a physical ride with virtual reality, giving passengers a “customised journey into space” via headsets that use groundbreaking technology.
The ride, called Galactica, will launch in April and is the first major new ride at the Staffordshire theme park since 16 people were injured, including five seriously, in a rollercoaster crash last June.
Two passengers – Leah Washington and Vicky Balch – had leg amputations as a result of the incident. An investigation attributed the crash on The Smiler ride to “human error”, and visitor numbers to the 200-hectare (500-acre) theme park have plunged since the incident. The park confirmed on Tuesday that The Smiler is scheduled to reopen later this year.
On the Galactica ride, each passenger on the 840-metre long (2,760ft) track wears a virtual reality headset that creates the illusion they are flying through space, with the movements on-screen coinciding with those on the track.
Riders plunge into virtual outer space with a G-force more powerful than a real rocket launch. Astronauts normally experience up to 3gs during a launch, but riders on Galactica will experience up to 3.5gs.
Gill Riley, marketing director at Alton Towers Resort, said the safety of visitors was the park’s “No 1 priority”, and that following last year’s incident additional safety protocols had been put in place. She said comprehensive and independent inspections of the new ride would take place before it opened.
“Galactica uses groundbreaking technology to give riders a breathtaking and completely unique rollercoaster experience,” she said. “Tim Peake captured the imagination of millions of Brits last year when he set off on his mission to the International Space Station – and now our visitors can become astronauts, too. There is nowhere else in the world that people can experience the feeling of a flying rollercoaster combined with soaring through the universe. For two minutes, our guests will be transported into space and we believe Galactica showcases the future for theme parks around the world. It’s a complete game-changer.”