What happened at PB behind the scenes is irrelevant, this how they chose to communicate it to their customers, therefore is what they should be judged on.
You say a new ride would outweigh a previous one, but did PB really have more visitors in 2018 than the year before? Icon's queue rarely went above 30 minutes on any of my visits, and was often close to walk-on.
I agree it's a weak statement, but I don't think many people are that hung up about it now, 1 year on. Yes, they had an opportunity to make more out of it, but they didn't. And so life moves on.
Don't know how many times it has to be said that visitor numbers aren't the only way to judge success. And the first year of an attraction doesn't always define it's success either.
Equally, a ride's queue time can't always be used to judge popularity. It could simply be that with the people visiting on, and the throughput it has, 30 minutes it's a current natural maximum. And people aren't going to choose to wait longer than that when they know it will be quieter at a different time. For a fun example to show this - I have never seen the queue for Black Mamba at Phantasialand get longer than 20 minutes: does that mean it's an unpopular ride?