As if the monsoon-like weather that has struck the UK in the past week wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of race-goers, now railway workers are having a go at making life a misery for punters.
The South West Railway (SWR) system are locked in an industrial dispute with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and until they are appeased SWR has confirmed that only a ‘skeleton’ rail service will be running for the duration of the strike action.
Unfortunately, that coincides with all five days of Royal Ascot, which kicks off on Tuesday June 18 and runs all the way through until the final day of the meeting on Saturday.
And that has led Ascot officials to taking the unusual step of recommending that punters seek alternative travel arrangements, with a replacement bus service and even car-sharing offered as possible solutions.
Strike it (Un)lucky
The five-day walkout by members of the NURMT is the latest in a long line of disagreements regarding the number of guards per train and the safety of customers. The strike action will affect trains in and around the capital but particularly the line from Waterloo Station to Reading – on which Ascot Station sits.
There had initially been hopes that the strike would be called off after a meeting between SWR and Union officials, but sadly those discussions came to nothing.
“Nothing has changed and we are where we are. There is no sign of any movement and the planned industrial action is due to go ahead next week,” said a Union spokesperson.
That means there will be disruption, cancellations and long delays, and only the hardiest of souls will attempt to catch a train to and from the festival.
There will be some connections available: extra morning and early evening trains will run between London Waterloo and Reading (not stopping at Longcross), but this is also a commuter line which, when added to by thousands of Royal Ascot patrons, means there will be problems with overcrowding and thus not everybody getting on. SWR have confirmed that a queuing system will be in place, which will increase the amount of time it takes to board – delays are inevitable.
There is also an Ascot to Aldershot line which runs from 10:00 to 21:45, although punters should note that for the majority of the running time rail replacement buses will be in effect.
Nick Smith, the director of racing and communications at Ascot, said:
“We will communicate with customers if there’s no resolution and we’re in regular discussion with SWR.
“They will be putting in contingency plans and, from our perspective, the advice to customers will be that if they travel by train there will be delays and congestion.
“So they should consider driving to the meeting over the five days, as we have a number of pay on the day car parks which we can open up if necessary and they would, of course, be clearly signposted.”
With hopes of an eleventh hour resolution fading, SWR has recommended that their customers keep an eye on their website and social media updates to ensure they are fully up-to-date with the latest developments.