The Cheltenham Festival is expected to draw upwards of 270,000 spectators this year, but rail strikes and road closures could affect travel plans. The
The Cheltenham Festival is expected to draw upwards of 270,000 spectators this year, but rail strikes and road closures could affect travel plans. The annual racing event in Gloucestershire attracts people from around the world, but this year, the number of people visiting Cheltenham Racecourse will be lower than last year.
The venue’s owner, the Jockey Club, made the decision last year to limit the number of spectators each day. The new cap of 68,500 daily spectators comes into effect on March 14, 2023. The organisers believe the cap will help attendees get the best experience possible without stretching the facilities too much. The cap could also help ease congestion in the town, particularly with a rail strike scheduled for March 16.
Online Coverage and Road Closures
As always, there will be a global audience watching and betting on Cheltenham outside of the famous racecourse. Every leading horse racing betting site is currently offering odds on the festival’s races, alongside the usual line-up meetings. Add to this live updates, video streams, race reports and tips, and those following Cheltenham online will be well-catered to. Not only that, anyone using an online sportsbook will avoid a potential pile-up around the Gloucestershire racecourse.
Gloucestershire County Council has implemented measures to ease congestion during the four-day festival, as it does every year. In 2023, the A40 (London Road) will become a one-way system. Additionally, it will be closed between 4 pm and 8 pm to make it safer for pedestrians to leave the racecourse. Other road closures and diversions will be in place across the town, including on Evesham Road, New Barn Lane, and Albert Road.
Anyone from the local area will expect at least some congestion throughout the festival, as will regulars to the event. However, what people might not expect this year is increased activity on the roads during the latter part of the festival. A national rail strike between March 16 and 18 will disrupt services to London and, in turn, Gloucestershire.
How to Avoid the Cheltenham Rush
Cheltenham’s assistant general manager, Andre Klein, told the Racing Post that he expects things to run fairly smoothly but the strike could be an issue. “We’re hoping the road closure should be all right. In November it worked quite well. Our biggest concern is we’re expecting a lot more traffic because of the rail strikes,” Klein told the Racing Post.
In an effort to help race-goers travelling long distances, National Express is running special services from London, Liverpool, Leeds and Swansea. The hope is that people will use the coach services to get directly to the racecourse. This will be particularly important on March 16 during the rail strike as the road will be busier than usual.
Of course, congestion at some level is unavoidable, but mitigating circumstances could create some unexpected problems this year. Therefore, travellers are being urged to plan ahead and expect delays. For those wanting to avoid the rush, ITV Racing will have live coverage of the big races, while online betting sites will provide a wealth of additional content.