By Phil Marsh

Cheltenham Gold Cup or Isle of Wight Grand National by train?

Published: 11th March 2016

Same sport, different styles of rail transport for punters!

Most people interested in sport have heard of The Cheltenham Festival, the three-day racing event but not nearly so many will have heard of the Isle Of Wight Grad National, or its 21st century name ‘The Ashey Scurry’.

Both events attract huge numbers of rail passengers as roads around both venues are clogged every year.

The four-day Cheltenham Festival takes place between March 15 and 18 inclusive culminating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday 18th. How does a rail passenger get to Cheltenham and the races?

Cheltenham Spa station is a two platform station on the Bristol to Birmingham main line and served by three train companies, Great Western Railway, Arriva Trains Wales and Arriva Cross Country.

All their respective services will be full and standing so its best to book in advance by checking out www.redspottedhanky.com . Many trains will be strengthened with extra carriages and some extra services will also be operated. Cheltenham is served by direct trains from Bristol, Cardiff, Plymouth, Penzance to the south and west, London, Swindon, Worcester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, York and Edinburgh to the north and east.

Great Western Railway will be running 12 extra trains (about 5000 extra seats) enabling a half hourly service from Paddington for London based punters. Passengers should be aware that a queuing system at Paddington and therefore allow extra time to join their train.

More trains

Trains will depart from London Paddington to Cheltenham every half hour between 0736hrs and 0936hrs. Return services from Cheltenham running towards Bristol, Swindon and London as follows:

15.33 to Bristol Temple Meads

16.20 to London Paddington

16.58 fast to Swindon

17.33 to Bristol Temple Meads

17.39 stopping service to Swindon

17.59 to London Paddington

18.34 to London Paddington

19.00 to London Paddington

1930 to London Paddington

19.34 to Bristol Temple Meads

20.01 stopping service to Swindon

20.30 to London Paddington

20.48 to Bristol Temple Meads

21.00 to Swindon

22.01 to Swindon

22.12 to Bristol Temple Meads

Return trains will depart from Cheltenham towards Worcester Shrub Hill at:

15.48

17.48

18.48

20.02

21.45

22.04

They said:

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 board trains in safety.”

Isle of Wight Grand National (AKA The Ashey Scurry!)

Just as much fun locally and attracting huge crowds is the annual Isle of Wight Grand National, locally known as The Ashey Scurry which this year is run on April 10th. This has limited car parking available so the Isle of Wight Steam Railway runs race specials to Ashey station which is now a request stop.

Ashey was a small village but had a large station of which the station house and remains of the original platform are still present 50 years after the line was closed by British Rail. The platform was abandoned because of subsidence and replaced with a basic brick-built shelter built on the other side of the line on firmer ground and is used by Isle of Wight Steam Railway trains.

Because most trains pass through non-stop, the platform is a great place to watch the passing steam services which only use Victorian or Edwardian carriages. The Ashey racecourse was situated next to the station but is now an area of fields but one annual race is still held, The Ashey Scurry. This brings the station’s busiest day of each year and saves getting stuck in mud or in traffic jams.

Trains run from Wootton and Havenstreet where car parks are available and train tickets can be purchased to Ashey. There is a small entry charge for the Ashey Scurry payable on entry.

The Isle of Wight steam railway will be operating a two train service on race day as well as a goods train so long as they are not overwhelmed by passengers!

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