EDINBURGH — For the 150th edition of the British Open, organizers are expecting the thickest galleries in the history of the competition, with some 290,000 fans flocking to gaze at the Old Course in St Andrews during the event.
But there’s no guarantee they’ll all make it to Scotland’s eastern fringe: for this Open, the labor battle has already taken a bigger turn than many of the golfers for the tournament’s end on Sunday.
“We may not be able to get you to the track,” Phil Campbell, the chief of customer service for ScotRail, the public train service, warned potential spectators.
“There is a risk that fans traveling by train will discover that there are no services to take them home,” said the R&A, the organizer of the Open.
Disagreements and uncertainty over train service have been staples of Scottish life since May, when a pay dispute led many of ScotRail’s unionized drivers to cancel the overtime and rest day orders routinely used by train operators in Britain to adjust their schedules. to fill, rejected. The result is a severely curtailed timetable that has fueled transit problems in Scotland since the spring. ScotRail and its drivers Monday a deal closed after a union vote, but that unrest had already spread into Open Week, an important period for the British tourist economy.
What makes matters worse, of course, is that this year, of all years, is the year that is expected to draw the most powerful crowd in Open history.
The R&A, which held the previous attendance record of 239,000 in 2000, when Tiger Woods won by eight strokes in St Andrews, said it received more than 1.3 million ticket applications for the 2022 Open. It’s a reflection of the tournament’s landmark anniversary, the return to the Old Course, and the grab-the-day sensibilities that have recently engulfed much of Western Europe.
The specter of 290,000 fans seemed ambitious enough in April, when the R&A announced the attack on a coastal town of about 20,000. Now it just seems like a nightmare.
The dissatisfaction with the train service in the United Kingdom is not limited to ScotRail. On Monday, trains with fans running from London to Edinburgh were delayed for hours in the north of England due to an electrical fault. Last month, Britain faced its largest railway strike in three decadesand Brits brace themselves for a summer of labor unrest across several sectors.
The union representing ScotRail drivers said on Monday its members had voted to accept a new deal, but the rail service has said it will take time, perhaps more than a week, to resume normal operations. It told golf fans to be prepared for difficulties during the Open and went so far as to call it a “travel warning.”
So, perhaps improbably, the camping and glamping options around St Andrews, or maybe even Gary Player’s Strategy for Sleeping on a Sand Dune from 1955, seem more attractive. But almost everyone seems to agree – and in the age of LIV Golfbig hitters and the feud among Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeauthere’s little agreement these days about courses – that Leuchars, the train station closest to St Andrews, will be a shambles, and so will the roads leading spectators in and out of St Andrews.
A ScotRail spokesperson said the operator expected to run 25 percent of the trains it had planned for the Open, suggesting many thousands of fans will fill the roads from places such as Dundee and Edinburgh. The R&A, which is not offering refunds for Open tickets due to travel issues, has been busy adding parking spaces.
There is also an official helicopter landing pad.
What is far from certain, however, is that this year’s Open will have far more spectators than last year, transit chaos or not. In 2021, when Britain was still mired in public health protocols, only 152,330 fans attended Royal St. George’s in England, the lowest number since 2013.