Thousands of golf fans have been urged to avoid Scotland’s railways when travelling to St Andrews for The Open as ScotRail’s limited timetable could see spectators stranded.
Some 290,000 people are expected to travel to the 150th Open, the largest attendance in the championship’s history, but as ScotRail continues to operate a limited timetable amid its dispute with Aslef, tournament organisers have said fans should not use the trains.
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of championships at The R&A, said he had “no choice but to urge fans to not travel by rail” next week because there was “a risk that fans who travel by train may find there are no services to get them home”.
“We appreciate that fans will be frustrated by this and share in their disappointment that the enhanced rail service planned for The Open will not operate,” he said.
Regrettably, our temporary timetable will still be in place throughout the Championship, which means there will be a very limited number of trains to and from Leuchars – the closest station to the course.
Phil Campbell, ScotRail
“We want to reassure fans that we are doing all that we can to make their experience of attending The Open a memorable one and have contingency measures in place to manage the situation.”
Drivers, both fans and local residents, are being told to plan ahead with longer journey times and delays possible due to an increase in traffic travelling to and from St Andrews.
Phil Campbell, ScotRail’s head of customer operations, said the firm was “doing absolutely everything we can” to support The Open but also urged “fans to plan ahead and consider what alternative transport is available”.
The nearest station to St Andrews is Leuchars, and of the services still operating at the station, Mr Campbell warned there might not be enough room to get people there.
“Space on board these trains is limited, so I’d urge fans to consider alternative modes of transport as there will be significantly long queues at stations and we may not be able to get you to the course,” he said.
While drivers have not gone on strike, they have refused to work overtime and on their rest days, a move which has crippled the railway which was nationalised by the Scottish Government in April.
ScotRail said it had introduced its timetable to “provide greater certainty and reliability for customers”.
The temporary timetable will see trains from Edinburgh, Dundee, and Aberdeen running to Leuchars roughly every hour during The Open, which runs from July 10 to 17.
Union Aslef has accepted a recent pay offer of a 5% pay rise and it will be put to their members for approval on July 11, but ScotRail said if drivers accept it would take time to return to the full timetable.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesman and MSP for North East Fife, said Scotland’s tourism industry “is the latest casualty in the Government’s blundering railroad of incompetence”.
“Years of planning has gone into The Open, and it is expected to bring millions of pounds to the local economy. However, this is being put at risk by the SNP/Green Government’s rail cancellations,” he said.
“The Government are undermining Scotland’s reputation in the eyes of the world. The SNP are on the wrong side of the tracks when it comes to the nation’s interests.”