Cops ‘increasingly concerned’ at open-road rallies
POLICE said they are becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ about rallies taking place on North Wales’ roads after a biker was killed on September 1.
The statement came as politicians also raised questions about the safety of rallies taking place on roads which remained open to the public.
A 48-year-old man was killed when his motorbike collided with a Ford RS2000 which was taking part in the Vale of Clwyd Classic rally.
The driver and navigator of the rally car both ended up in hospital after the collision on the B5105, and an investigation is under way into how the crash happened.
North Wales Roads Policing Unit Sergeant Trystan Bevan said the force did not support rallies and navigation events taking place on public roads.
He said: “North Wales Police were made aware of this rally back in June and we were informed that it was taking place on a public highway.
“We are becoming increasingly concerned over the number and nature of certain events that are now being held on the public highway, and we do not support events such as rallies and navigational events taking place.
“The Motor Sports Association, under powers invested by the Welsh government, are the legal body that authorise rallies/ time trials taking place on the highway and the responsibilities and duty of care for maintaining public safety rests on the organiser.
“Our investigation in relation to the tragic incident on the weekend is ongoing, therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The rally comprised of “tests” on private land, and also some road sections, beginning and ending at the Druid Inn in Llanferes. The events are organised by the Motor Sports Association (MSA), with powers delegated to them by the Welsh Government. While police are informed ahead of the rallies taking place, local authorities, such as councils, would only be involved in the management or planning of events if any public roads were being closed.
No roads were closed during the Vale of Clwyd Classic, but the highways were used by some of the competing vehicles.
However, the MSA stressed any road sections did not involve racing.
A spokesman for the MSA said: “As is the case with all road traffic accidents, this incident will be subject to a full police investigation. Until this has reached its conclusion and the outcome is known, any comments regarding the possible causes of this tragic accident are premature and must be regarded as speculation.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this was not a race on the public highway; it was a road navigation event for classic cars, organised by an MSA-registered club and subject to MSA regulations and the Road Traffic Act.
“We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our sincere condolences to the family of the motorcyclist.”
Llyr Gruffydd, a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, said he had concerns that public highways were being used for motoring contests at the same time they were being used by ordinary road users.
He added he had raised concerns with the police in the past over the event, and residents who lived in the area had complained to him about potential safety issues three years ago.
Mr Gruffydd said: “My thoughts and condolences go out to the victims and their families. We must await the investigation into the crash of course, but concerns about this rally using public roads have been raised with me in previous years. Two years ago, I raised those concerns with North Wales Police and was assured all the rallying took place on private roads.
“I have again sought those assurances following the weekend’s terrible accident.
“We need to know whether the rally was operating within agreed parameters and whether there was sufficient stewarding, publicity and signage to warn the general public.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “A police investigation is under way and, as such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment in detail. We work closely with North Wales Police and will discuss any concerns as part of our collaborative arrangements.”
The Clwyd Vale Motor Club, which organised the event, cancelled the rally immediately after the accident, which left the rally car on its roof at the side of a T-junction on the road through the Clocaenog forest.
The driver was flown to Stoke in a serious condition and the navigator was taken to Wrexham Maelor hospital with minor injuries. Neither are believed to be from the local area and the motorcyclist who was killed, who has not been named, was from Merseyside.
Clwyd Vale Motor Club released a statement following the crash, saying it would be working with the authorities to establish what happened.
The statement said: “We would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the family of the motorcyclist who tragically died. We will also be supporting the two competitors with their recoveries.”
Police close the road after the fatal accident on the B5105