England

Smiler riders voice support for Alton Towers

Alex Arnell,
Image caption Alex Arnell was among the first riders on the Smiler as the new season began and supports the theme park's decision to reopen the ride

Alton Towers' Smiler ride has reopened nine months after two carriages crashed, seriously injuring five people. The theme park said it had brought in "additional safety procedures" as crowds arrived for the new season.

Hardened theme park fans had one subject on their lips - The Smiler.

Despite the bitterly cold temperatures, many started arriving hours before the park opened at 10 in the morning.

Smiler logo

Many rollercoaster obsessives were among them - and some were even wearing black hoodies with the yellow Smiler logo in a show of support.

Those first in line couldn't get through the turnstiles quick enough to be among the first to go on the ride - its nine-month closure that injured 16 in total had only further whetted their appetite for thrill-seeking.

Some empty carriages were sent around the twists and turns of the track before letting the first 16 riders on.

And as the safety harnesses were locked in place, strapping each one in their seat, cheers of excitement and applause rang out.

Onlookers watched as the ride went round its 14 loops at 85mph (136 kph). And when the first carriage came to a halt, there was more clapping.

Image copyright Zach Lowe
Image caption "The Smiler Man" Zach Lowe said the 14-looped ride was a "great piece of engineering"

Zach Lowe, 20, from Leeds, loves the rollercoaster so much he's known as the Smiler Man - and even has a custom-made yellow jacket to prove it.

He was on the first carriage, in the third row. "I wanted to be first on the ride as I was on the first public train when the ride opened back in 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016," he said.

"It's a personal goal I aim and run for every year.

"The ride itself I love because it's a great piece of engineering. To have that much track in such a small area with a record number of inversions is just fascinating.

"When you're on the ride it's a great sensation going round and round and never really knowing where you are until you stop and think 'wow'."

Alex Arnell, 23, from London, was also among the first to ride the rollercoaster. She said she'd been shocked after learning about the accident but it hadn't stopped her wanting to go on.

"I've been on it before so I wanted to go on it again. I was surprised how big the queue was," she said.

She too thinks Alton Towers made the right decision to reopen the ride.

"Because [the accident] proved to be a human error, I don't think it should be closed."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Some rollercoaster enthusiasts queued from dawn to be first on the reopened ride

Although The Smiler was busy in the morning, the queues subsided in the afternoon and those entering through the ride's yellow gates only had to wait a few minutes before getting on.

Not everyone wanted to give it a go, with queues for The Oblivion much longer, but it's clear that there is a lot of support for the theme park.

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