Thirteen testing at Alton Towers

In the park's latest publicity stunt, Alton Towers has introduced a new ticket for the 2010 season which includes optional health insurance in the event of the "horror" of new coaster Thirteen proving too much.

The new tickets are priced at £1 extra. For the price, guests will get access to a medical expert stationed close to Thirteen and will be covered for "physical and psychological trauma". However, looking beyond the obvious marketing ploy, coaster fans may take encouragement from the park listing March 20 (the opening day of its 2010 season) as the ride's opening date in its press release.

Speculation has raged over whether Thirteen will open on time for the start of the season following the cancellation of a planned preview weekend on March 13-14, and a statement from the park revealing that a "massive amount of work" remains to get the ride area ready for the public. However, Alton Towers' publicity machine is continuing to push March 20 as the opening date.

The park claims that Thirteen will be "the scariest rollercoaster in the world", and has recently launched a series of Blair Witch Project-style "blipverts" on UK television. Owners Merlin pursued a similar strategy last year, with the launch of the horror-themed Saw: The Ride at Thorpe Park (and the opening of the Saw Alive Horror Maze this month).

Alton Towers has promised that the Intamin-designed Thirteen full contain a "world's first" element, rumored to be either a section of track that "freefalls" vertically, a backwards-tilting section - or a combination of the two.

You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter using the box on the right of this page.

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