Smiler Rollercoaster
Merlin Entertainment will face trial over the 2015 crash at Alton Towers. Reuters

Merlin Entertainment, owner of Alton Towers theme park, is to be prosecuted over the 2015 Smiler roller coaster accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said on Thursday (25 February). Five people suffered severe injuries in the incident.

FTSE 100-listed Merlin Entertainment will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April and it will face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the HSE said.

On 2 June 2015, a carriage carrying 16 people collided with another empty carriage on the Smiler ride. The accident left five severely injured and two victims had to have legs amputated.

Earlier on 25 February, the company, which also owns Legoland and the London Eye, posted a 0.3% year-on-year increase in ann ual pre-tax profit to £250m (€316.2m, $347.9m).

However, Merlin reported a "significant" fall in visitor numbers at Alton Towers after the accident, which saw the park shut for four days. Like-for-like sales in the group's resort theme parks division fell 12.4% from the corresponding period in 2014 but revenue rose 2.3% to £1.27bn and visitor numbers across the company's venues grew 0.3% to 62.9m.

"The safety of our guests and employees must always come first and we have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened on 2 June," said chief executive Nick Varney as he commented on what he described as "a challenging year".

Meanwhile, Merlin confirmed it has invested £24.6m in the Big Bus Tours company,which provides hop-on city tours around the world, and now holds a 15% stake in the company.

The FTSE 100 said it retaineda clear strategy, adding had clear competitive advantages over its rivals and was well positioned in the market.

"Whilst we remain mindful of macro-economic and geo-political factors outside of our control, we remain confident in the strength of the underlying business and the natural diversification that the growing portfolio creates," said Varney,