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I design rollercoasters – here’s why the fastest or tallest rides aren’t the best

THE DESIGNER of Nemesis has revealed why most roller coasters just aren’t anywhere near as exciting as they claim to be.

Theme parks everywhere claim to have the biggest, fastest or scariest rides now, but designing them for the sake of records isn’t the right way to go about it.

Nemesis is going to be redesigned before it opens again after next year

That’s according to John Wardley, who is responsible for designing Alton Towers classics Oblivion, Air and Nemesis, which was closed on November 6.

The ride is set to reopen again in 2024 after a revamp, with John and co considering how to breathe new life into the ride between now and then.

However, they won’t be bending the tracks in the hope of chasing any new records, with the experience much more important to John.

He told Sun Online Travel: “It was the approach that we originally took – we didn’t set out to build a roller coaster, we set out to build a stunning attraction that would present the visitors to Alton Towers with a challenge – dare they or dare they not experience it.

“It’s an adventure and I always set out to create an adventure.

“The normal way people build roller coasters is to take a flat piece of land. They look at record books and work out which is the highest roller coaster in the world and throw a load of steel up in the air hoping to beat that record.

“That’s not really what entertainment and escapism is all about.

“Superlatives are all very well, as is getting in the record books, but they’re not necessarily the starting point.

“My first objective was to build a thrilling adventure that would sort of test the boundaries of what people dare and doing that succeeded very well.”

The main way in which John’s roller coasters deviate from the norm is that they begin strong but don’t always take the rider on a journey.

He claims that his rides always give people memories of an experience rather than just a go on a fast ride.

He continued: “With a conventional roller coaster, all you’re really interacting with is a load of steel and perhaps the sky above you.

Nemesis is all about an incredible journey through rock and water and an amazing set of twists and turns and inversions.

“It’s an adventure journey. Alright, that journey only lasts less than a couple of minutes, but nevertheless, I don’t think anybody who’s ridden it themselves has forgotten that journey that they’ve taken.”

John believes the secret to a great roller coaster is to finish with a flourish and not waste the biggest and most exciting part of the ride at the beginning.

He thinks that all-too-often rides are guilty of petering out, rather than sustaining a truly exciting experience throughout the journey.

He said: “A badly designed roller coaster doesn’t really follow the pattern of what show business is all about.

“Show business is all about leaving the best to last – the big finale.

“Basically a roller coaster, because it starts off very high with a lot of energy, it peters out and gets progressively more and more tame towards the end of the run as it gets closer and closer to the ground.

“With Nemesis I designed it so that the station was not at the very bottom of the ride so that it’s halfway up, which enabled us to put in a barrel roll at the very end of the ride just before you come into the station.”

The barrel roll is not only designed with the people who ride the roller coaster in mind, but to give those who aren’t brave enough to ride it an experience as well.

John said: “The double advantage of this is for those that don’t decide to take the ride – they can stand and watch it and actually be at the same level as those that are riding the ride upside down and they can make eye contact.

“Most roller coasters are put behind a great big high fence. If you don’t ride it, you’re sort of staring at it in the distance thinking obviously this isn’t for me.

“With Nemesis even if you don’t want to ride it, you can get in amongst the thing and actually get quite close to the people that are riding it.

“That’s what that that final hidden valley roll is is all about. The riders don’t see it coming and the guests that aren’t going to ride the ride can line themselves up so that they can be within literally just a few feet of people who are upside down and can make eye contact.”

Meanwhile, a new Harry Potter land is opening at the biggest theme park in the world.

And the rides at this waterpark in Tenerife were so fast that a person going down one of the slides looked unconscious.

John Wardley designed the Alton Towers rides Oblivion, Air and Nemesis

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  1. Pingback: I design roller coasters and the front isn’t the best place to sit – here’s why

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