Cheltenham Festival Horse Racing RACING

It’s time to talk about the traffic chaos that surrounds the Cheltenham Festival

Don’t be fooled by the champagne and stacks of cash, the detrimental impact on the local transport networks can’t be overlooked any longer.

Last year, over 280,00 people flocked to Cheltenham across the four days of racing to get a taste of the greatest week in the horse racing calendar. On Gold Cup day, attendance was marked at a staggering 73,875, creating a quite sensational atmosphere inside Prestbury Park.

The seismic impact this has on the local transport networks around Cheltenham and Gloucestershire however, has in years gone by been an issue that has been swept under the carpet as local businesses revel in the mouth-watering profits that can be made across the week.

What makes the Festival so special?

It was estimated that the Festival is worth over £160 million in a direct boost to the local economy every year, with large portions of the crowds heading into town and splashing their winnings in local bars, restaurants, clubs and retail stores.

The view of the course from the Panoramic Suite

This year, as a result of the overwhelming crowds that descended on the town 12 months ago, attendances have had to be capped in order to control the volume of not only fans, but also traffic congestion that wreaks havoc in the surrounding areas.

The impact is felt particularly by those who have to travel from outside Cheltenham to work at the racecourse, where journey’s can be nightmarish throughout the week.

Read more here: Key route blocked on A40 during Ladies’ Day

Harry Felwick, is an employee of Compass Group, who hire staff for race week, lives in Gloucester and has to make the journey to and from Prestbury Park everyday.

The 23 year-old admitted that the money on offer is to good to turn down, so he has to cope with the traffic issues that face him each day.

“Any normal week, my journey would take me around about 40 minutes, 20 minutes in and 20 minutes out to get from Gloucester.

However, because of race week and I am working at the racecourse, and the 70,000 people heading there on opening day yesterday, it took me 3 hours to get there and back.

That included me leaving over two hours after the last race and the gates had closed.”

That is just for me coming from Gloucester; we have people coming from Birmingham to work!

Harry Felwick explaining the transport trouble he faces during race week

With nearby roads such as the A40 only a dual-carriageway leading to-and-from Cheltenham and Gloucester, it is easy to understand how the roads become gridlocked quite so quickly.

The town does offer racegoers an alternative method of transport, laying on a plethora of extra buses that run throughout the day to transport the fans up to Albert Road, subsequently this does only add to the volume of vehicles on the road, making the move somewhat counter-intuitive in Council’s mission to reduce traffic issues.

As if the locals weren’t incensed enough by the chaos caused on the roads, they won’t be able to count on the rail networks as a reliable source of transport, as the carriages are rammed full with racegoers dressed to the nines, or sat at the station not in use as the national rail strikes add further to the complications that come with the Cheltenham Festival.

While the punters at Cheltenham cannot be sure the winners of each race, one thing they can be certain of is a long journey home come the end of the festivities.

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