Published: 7th March 2015
The biggest race meeting of 2015 so far takes place in the Cotswolds between March 10 and 13 with 27 races planned. The annual Cheltenham Festival brings tens of thousands of punters from around the world. This also brings traffic chaos so extra trains are run to Cheltenham station, close to the racecourse.
The station is served by two main operators, Cross-Country Trains (CCT) and First Great Western (FGW) plus a few Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) services.
Fleet engineers and horse trainers will all have been busy making sure the trains operate as planned and the horses run as hoped for the biggest four days in National Hunt racing. The event gathers pace as it heads for the event’s major race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13.
FGW is running 11 extra Cheltenham Champagne specials daily from Paddington offering more than 4,000 extra seats and they estimate that more than of 1,000 glasses of Champagne and Prosecco could be sold. The favourite drink? Gin and tonic supplemented with sausage rolls outselling bacon baguettes by 3:2. FGW says.
Five extra services run from Paddington and up to seven run back from Cheltenham each day. But despite these race specials, passengers should note that a queuing system will be in operation at Paddington and Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Spa Station Manager Richard Morrish said: “The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most popular in the race calendar, bringing a large number of visitors to the town.
“While our friendly and approachable staff will be on hand to help keep people moving, I would urge customers to allow time for their journeys, as a queuing system will be needed to allow passengers to safely board trains.”
The extra trains will depart Paddington at: 07.36, 08.03, 08.33, 09.03 and 09.36 returning from Cheltenham at: 16.20, 17.59, 18.34, 19.00, 19.34 and on Friday only at 20.31. Other extra trains run from Cheltenham at 17.00 to Swindon, 17.32 to Bristol Temple Meads, 17.39, 20.01, 20.35, 21.00, 22.01 to Swindon and at 20.48 and 22.21 to Bristol Temple Meads.
There are several alterations to the normal FGW timetable to enable these extra trains to run so check if using FGW services while the Cheltenham Festival is on.
CCT runs trains between Penzance, Bristol and Aberdeen and Nottingham and Cardiff, all running via Cheltenham. But be warned, many of these on the latter route can be only two or three carriages and get very crowded when major sporting events are taking place.
Given that ATW operates from the ferry ports of Fishguard and Holyhead and that March 12 is called ‘The St. Patrick’s Thursday’, trains will be heaving connecting with sea services to Ireland.
All train tickets can be purchased from redspottedhankey.com