Air roller coaster

In this week's poll, we ask whether you feel short-changed when theme parks opt to stagger the opening times of their rides and attractions.

Alton Towers has a special place in my heart. It was the first large theme park I went to as a child, and I remember being truly amazed by the sheer size of the place and the number of attractions on offer - not to mention the beautiful picturesque gardens and the gothic mansion which lends the park its name.

Whereas Alton Towers has often hit the headlines for the right reasons over the past few years (for installing "world's first" rides designed by the legendary John Wardley, for example), it has been dogged by negative stories in recent weeks. The most recent one has certainly stirred up some strong feelings amongst the park's fanbase.

Alton Towers has again put up ticket prices this year, as well as hiking car parking charges once more to £6. Despite this, it was revealed last week that a number of top attractions, including Air, Thirteen, The Flume, Battle Galleons and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would switch to an 11am opening time - a full hour after the park opens its gates.

Of course, the reasoning behind the decision was inevitably to cut costs, with Alton Towers having suffered from declining visitor numbers in 2011 (when it opened no new rides) and shocking weather this summer. But was this really the right move, or would it actually just infuriate guests who found themselves unable to ride some of the park's most popular rides early in the day?

In the end, the park seems to have answered this question by quickly reversing the decision. It's the latest in a series of u-turns by Alton Towers operator Merlin, which appears to be making a worrying number of missteps at present (though it continues to thrive and expand in the face of the economic headwinds affecting just about every other company).

Alton Towers is by no means the only park that staggers ride opening times. Disneyland Paris, for example, has done so for years, and Epcot's entire World Showcase area is closed when the park opens in the morning. Are you irritated by this practice, or is it just a reasonable way of theme parks managing their costs and foot-traffic? We'd love to know your thoughts.

Vote now!

So - do you think theme parks are right to stagger ride opening times? Let us know what you think by voting in our poll below.

Do late ride opening times short-change theme park guests?

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Thanks for voting in Theme Park Tourist's Big Debate. Why not let us know why you voted as you did using the comments section below?


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