Traffic chaos hits Silverstone
Heavy rain causes long tailbacks on main access road to Silverstone
Last Updated: 06/07/12 4:01pm
Traffic chaos descended on Silverstone on Friday, leaving thousands of British Grand Prix spectators stuck outside the track as first Practice got underway.
In spite of the heavy rain which started falling overnight, queues were building early at the Northamptonshire circuit, with tailbacks outside the main gate forming by 7.30am.
Twitter was soon alive with messages from those stuck in jams, with stories emerging of gridlocked traffic on and off the main A43 route.
"Secret back road going to Silverstone - 21 minutes from home..." tweeted Karun Chandhok, the former HRT and Caterham driver adding moments later: "Damn it ! That was till the end of the A43... Still trying to get in the gate..."
The problem, in part, appears to stem from the fact that organisers - perhaps fearing a repeat of the 2000 British Grand Prix, when bad weather also caused problems - do not want cars parked in muddy fields.
However, with a crowd of 80,000 anticipated, their attempts to make full use of the permanent car parks - which are fewer in number - is apparently slowing the process down.
The traffic has also been swelled by sodden ground on nearby campsites. With the Woodlands site now full, campers are having to find space elsewhere and are being taken to new pitches one at a time owing to the conditions.
Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater was among those caught in the traffic jams and while interviewing some fans in a car on the gridlocked A43 one told him: "This is a nightmare. I think it will take a couple more hours to get there."
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Expecting sustained poor weather over the Grand Prix weekend, race organisers announced on Thursday that they were readying emergency measures to cope with the effects of the conditions to ensure there was as little disruption to fans' arrival at the circuit as possible.
Craig Slater said during his report on Sky Sports News: "I think most of the fans expected this and the warnings from the circuit were there would be this kind of situation. People were told they would have to get here early and would have to be patient," he said
"In mitigation to everyone at Silverstone, they have had long-term plans in place to try and get around this problem. They've added an extra mile to their drainage system, spent over a million pounds in traffic management, they've got two three thousand gallon tankers to try and get rid of some of the moisture from some of the surroundings here.
"The problem is the water table has just risen up over these weeks and it has meant getting people into the car parks is becoming a rather long, drawn out affair."
Silverstone Director of Communications Katie Tyler later explained that the problem had been exacerbated by large numbers of campers turning up without booking in advance.
"Normally with the weather not being that good you wouldn't get on-spec campers but they are turning up assuming they can just pitch up and pitch their tent and they can't," she said.
"Our advice people is that if you haven't booked a campsite don't turn up on spec, and if you have booked a space, and we're working with all the campsite owners including ourselves to relocate you all."
The park and ride system Silverstone has in place only operates on Saturday and Sunday - something organisers hope will help ease the situation given that the forecast is for more rain.
Tyler said that would be the preferred option, with parking cars nose-to-nose on hardstanding ground "an absolute last resort".
She added that temporary grass parking had also been saved for the remainder of the weekend but "it will be slow getting people out".
Looking ahead, Tyler said: "There will be a problem. If we get more rain we have to be honest about it, it will be slow and there will be problems.
"We've loaded all the hardstanding car parks today but we have used some of the other car parks that aren't hardstanding that may well be in a bad state tomorrow. So again we are looking at all sorts of alternatives for tomorrow."
Tyler added that she could not say whether spectators arriving late on Friday would be reimbursed.
"I can't say that, but I am sure it will have to be looked at and reviewed," she added.