EDINBURGH – At the 150th British Open, organizers are expecting the thickest galleries in the history of the competition, with some 290,000 fans hanging around to gawk at the Old Course in St. Louis. Andrews about this event.
But there’s no guarantee they’ll all make it to the eastern edge of Scotland: labor disputes have already taken a more stellar turn at this Open than many golfers had before the tournament ended on Sunday.
“We may not be able to get you to the course,” Phil Campbell, head of customer service for ScotRail, the state-owned rail service, warned potential viewers.
“There is a risk that fans traveling by train may find that there are no services available to take them home,” said Open organizer R&A.
Disagreements and uncertainty over rail transport have been a fixture in Scottish life since May, when a wage dispute led many of the unionized ScotRail drivers to forego overtime and rest day assignments that train operators in the UK commonly used to fill their charts. The result was a drastic reduction in the schedule, which has caused transport problems in Scotland since the spring. ScotRail and its drivers agreed on Monday after the vote of the unions, but that turmoil has already extended to Open House Week, an important period for the British tourism economy.
Worse, of course, is that this year is expected to be the biggest crowd in the history of the Open Championship.
R&A, which set the previous attendance record of 239,000 in 2000 when Tiger Woods won with eight strokes in St. Andrewssaid it had received more than 1.3 million ticket requests for the Open 2022. This is a reflection of the tournament’s landmark anniversary, a return to the old ground, and the adventurism that has taken hold of much of Western Europe lately.
The specter of 290,000 fans seemed ambitious enough back in April when R&A announced an attack on a seaside town of around 20,000. Now it just seems like a nightmare.
Dissatisfaction with trains in the United Kingdom is not limited to ScotRail. On Monday, trains carrying fans from London to Edinburgh experienced many hours of delays in the north of England due to a power failure. Last month, Britain faced largest railroad strike in three decadesand the British are preparing for summer of labor turmoil across several sectors.
The union representing ScotRail drivers said on Monday its members had voted to accept the new deal, but the rail service said it would take time, possibly more than a week, to resume normal operations. He advised golfers to be prepared for challenges throughout the Open Championship and even issued what he called a “travel warning”.
So maybe it’s unbelievable, but the camping and glamping options around St. Andrews, maybe even Gary Player’s 1955 strategy to sleep on a sand duneseem more attractive. But almost everyone seems to agree – and in an era LIV Golfbig hitters and enmity between Brooks Koepka as well as Bryson DeChambeau, there is not enough agreement on courses these days – that Leuchars, the nearest railway station to St. Petersburg. Andrews, there will be a mess, as will the roads directing spectators to and from St. Andrews. Andrews.
A ScotRail spokesman said the operator expected to run 25 percent of the trains scheduled for the Open, assuming many thousands of fans would fill the roadways from places like Dundee and Edinburgh. R&A, which does not offer refunds for Open tickets due to travel issues, is struggling to add parking spaces.
There is also an official helipad.
However, one can almost certainly say that transit chaos or not, there will be much more spectators at the Open this year than in the past. In 2021, with the UK still adhering to public health protocols, a total of 152,330 fans visited Royal St. George in England, the lowest since 2013.