Silverstone traffic issues could continue


Silverstone organisers have warned fans travelling to the British Grand Prix that they can expect further delays and have promised a full investigation into the traffic chaos that people trying to attend Friday's practice day were met with.

With large areas of the country under flood alert, and 80,000 fans expected to come to the circuit on Friday, huge tailbacks quickly built up on the A43 approach road to Silverstone and its surrounding routes as unprecedented levels of rain over the past few days rendered some campsites and car parks waterlogged.

The traffic problems were caused largely by Silverstone's official campsite, as well as privately owned ones, turning away large numbers of fans who had not booked in advance and returning them to the queuing traffic on Friday morning. This created a back up.

The delays led to many fans being forced to miss practice and spend hours waiting in their cars trying to get in the circuit.

"It's a nightmare," said Silverstone's head of communications Katie Tyler. "With the British Grand prix, we spend a lot more on traffic management, but even so, if you have a block with cars not being able to get to camping sites...."

"We know we've got a problem, we know it's serious," she added. "The problem is that the campers are turning up at their campsites and being turned away because of the ground. The farmers who own the private campsites and our own official one - Silverstone Woodlands - are saying; 'We can't take any more, we're going to relocate you.'

"Local radio and Silverstone radio are putting that message out, to say 'if you haven't booked, don't turn up.'"

The area surrounding Silverstone received 35mm of rain in 40 minutes on Wednesday, according to measurements taken by Turweston Aerodrome, and there are fears that some of Silverstone's 'soft' grass car parks may not be useable if the rain continues into the weekend.

"That [rain] threw everything out," said Tyler. "[Silverstone's managing director] Richard Phillips said yesterday that we would be okay if we didn't get any more rain and then we got more today."

Organisers held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss measures to try and contain the traffic problems and to ensure that fans trying to get in and out of the circuit later in the weekend could expect fewer problems.

"We've the best people on the job, and we're doing all we can, with people discussing what we do tonight and tomorrow," said Tyler. "One of the key decisions is getting the people waiting to get into campsites relocated, and then how we get the campers on to site tomorrow morning."

Asked whether fans could expect more problems over the weekend, Tyler said: "If we get more rain we have to be honest about it, it will be slow and there will be problems.

"The car parks we are using... we've loaded all the hardstanding car parks today but we have used some of the other car parks that aren't hardstanding that then may well be in a bad state tomorrow. So again we are looking at all sorts of alternatives for tomorrow.

"I don't know what the solutions have been decided yet. They are looking at hardstanding, and the park and ride is on tomorrow and Sunday. That does help. There is no park and ride operation on a Friday. So we are looking at other park and ride options."

Tyler explained that making park and ride available to fans on Friday had not been part of the plan, and is difficult to achieve during normal business hours around the area.

It is unclear whether Silverstone plans to reimburse fans with Friday tickets who could not get into the circuit to see the Formula 1 action, but Tyler said: "I can't say that, but I am sure it will have to be looked at and reviewed."

Tyler said there would be a full investigation into the problems Silverstone encountered on Friday. And she added that there was a sense of frustration from the organisers, having invested so much into traffic infrastructure since the venue's disastrous 2000 British Grand Prix when the event was brought to a virtual standstill through rain and mud.

"We need to look into all the factors and what we can do to minimise something like this happening again," she said. "Worst case scenarios are planned for, but at the end of the day we are surrounded by fields, and the cost of tarmacing the whole site is not feasible.

"What's so frustrating, that we'd almost got over the hangover of 2000. It seems we're about to go through it again, certainly with today happening."

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