St Andrews residents fear the town could grind to a halt as a ScotRail dispute pushes thousands of golf fans onto the roads next week.
Around 12,000 spectators a day were due to travel to The Open Championship by rail before being bussed to The Old Course.
But Tuesday’s bombshell announcement that rail services will be limited means they now face finding alternatives.
Extra bus services aren’t guaranteed as Stagecoach struggles with a staffing crisis of its own.
Therefore, it could result in many thousands of extra cars heading to and from St Andrews.
A record 290,000 people have tickets for the four-day golf event from July 14 to 17.
Organisers say they are doing everything they can to ensure contingency plans are in place.
But people who live and work in the town predict a nightmare situation, with gridlocked roads and no place to park.
‘The people of St Andrews are bearing the brunt’
Jane Kennedy, manager of BID St Andrews which represents businesses in the town, said it could have a huge impact.
“The town struggles with parking anyway. That’s one of the issues,” she said.
“When you’re putting on an event of this size it’s not just visitors who are impacted.
“We have a lot of people coming for work and to have this happen just days before the event is really difficult.
“It doesn’t give a lot of time to react and choose alternatives.
“There aren’t really a lot of alternatives to be honest.”
And St Andrews Lib Dem councillor Jane Ann Liston branded the situation appalling.
“Already the people of St Andrews are bearing the brunt of even more restrictions than at previous Opens,” she said.
“There are more parking bans, cyclists diverted on to very busy roads and the West Sands road closed even to bicycles.
“Now we are faced with even more cars than ever descending upon the town.
“Even if a significant number opt for the park and rides, that still means more cars driving on the roads near St Andrews.”
‘It beggars belief’
The R&A contacted all Open Championship ticket holders on Tuesday to alert them of the rail crisis.
ScotRail has warned of long queues at railway stations.
And it says it can’t guarantee it will get everyone to the course.
Those who do get there by train may struggle to return home.
Fife Council’s transportation spokesman Altany Craik is furious the announcement came just days before the biggest event in the sporting calendar.
The Labour councillor said: “It beggars belief and, while this is part of an ongoing industrial relations issue, what further efforts are being made to resolve this?
“What plans are in place if a resolution is found?
“These need to focus on getting safe, effective and reliable rail options to cover the four days of The Open where more than 250,000 people will attend.”
He added: “Over 100 million people worldwide will see the event on television and will want to visit the area over the coming years.
“Luckily for them, the travel disruption won’t be on the coverage.”
Spectators urged to plan ahead
National transport agency Transport Scotland said it too was disappointed by the situation.
But it said everything possible was being done to get spectators to and from the event.
And increased Open Championship parking is planned with more park and ride options.
A spokesperson said: “As ScotRail only confirmed their finalised plans this week we are now working with the R&A, Fife Council, ScotRail and Police Scotland to ensure the contingency plan is fit for purpose.
“Our understanding is additional bus services, shuttle buses and park and ride facilities will be used.
“We would urge those attending to plan ahead and check the R&A and ScotRail website and Traffic Scotland Twitter feed for latest advice.”
Bus services available
The bus service due to take people from Leuchars railway station to the golf course will now be transferred to park and ride facilities.
The spokesman added that the normal bus services from Leuchars to St Andrews will continue to operate.
And it will be monitored throughout The Open to ensure additional services are available if required.
A designated taxi rank and private hire drop off and pick up area will be in operation at Petheram Bridge, within walking distance of the course.