Abergavenny Steam Rally's famous Road Run hits a red light this year

Thursday 17th May 2018 7:22 am

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AN historic and popular highlight of Abergavenny’s Steam Rally is to be cancelled for the first time in its history, a local organiser has confirmed.

The Road Run, a highlight of the town’s steam rally to be held later this month, has been canned after organisers said the new traffic system outside Morrisons poses a ‘significant risk’.

Announcing the start of the rally, the famed run usually involves twelve or so steamers parading around the town in a colourful and noisy display heralding one of Abergavenny’s most-regarded calendar highlights.

Lamenting the reality, Steam Rally organisers said ‘practical difficulties’ resultant from the new road layout outside Abergavenny’s Morrisons supermarket had forced the Steam Run off the road for the first time in the Rally’s history.

“There are practical difficulties as a result of the new road layout around the exit to the park and from the Fairfield car park,” said organiser David Hassall.

“We do our safety assessments every year on all aspects of the Rally,” he explained.

“This year, we have the addition of the new traffic lights at the entrance to Morrisons, which for the steam engines present a significant risk.

“The stopping distance for a steamer is much greater than a car, and of course, the new lights are just where the steamers traditionally formed up for the start of the Run.

“We always try and keep the steamers all together in a convoy, because cars pulling in-between can create a significant hazard. It would be inevitable that the run would be split up by the traffic lights, without the extra hazard of cars turning across the face of the run to go into the supermarket.”

Mr Hassall said this year would be a testing ground, with organisers hoping a solution can be found.

“We shall monitor the impact of the new lights on the traffic flow this year and if there is a way for us to plan a road run next year, we shall certainly look at it very carefully.”

The organiser explained that changes thrust upon the team this year mean they also have to relocate the steam engines, and support vehicles, which means fencing off a larger cut of Fairfield Car Park. Some of the steamers will then have to travel out of the car park entrance and along Park Avenue.

?“They will be escorted by marshals wearing high-vis jackets and we do ask your tolerance if this causes a delay for you.

“We realise that this may cause some inconvenience for people who usually use this car park but we are keeping this to an absolute minimum. We apologise if this does cause problems,” he added.

Aware of the Run’s huge popularity, Mr Hassall confirmed the decision was forced with a ‘heavy heart’.

“We know what colour and spectacle it brings to the town, and of course, it heralded the start of the show. People would gather outside, watch the run and then make their way into Bailey Park.

“However, the steamers will all be there in the park along with the other attractions and will be parading in the arena as usual.”

Douglas McArthur, a media affairs officer for the event, said organisers would use the off-year to work out a solution, but offered that no solid plans were yet available.

“It has been increasingly hard since we picked up the Steam Rally in the early 1990s. The increase in traffic, and now the new problem of the A40 changes.

“We just thought we would have to take a break this year. The combination of a 30-tonne steamer and the traffic means things have gotten difficult.

“But, we are looking at how we can sort it out for next year. We know it is a disappointment — the Steam Run is a tradition — and we will do all we can to get the Run back the streets of Abergavenny in the future.”

Town mayor Councillor David Simcock, said the move was regretful, but logistical challenges had forced the hand of organisers.

“It is a great pity that the Steam Run has had to be cancelled this year,” he said. “But having spoken to the organisers, the Rotary, I don’t think they had much choice.

“I understand there is a risk of one of the new traffic lights outside Morrisons being demolished if it went ahead! The combination of the new lights and the use of the Fairfield car park by contractors has made the entrance into Bailey Park very difficult for the steam engines to negotiate without the danger of hitting something. Add to that the extra congestion that the Run would have created on the already jam-packed roads, and it is a bit of a no-brainer, really.

“Maybe next year it will be different. Let’s hope so, it would be a shame to lose the sight of these magnificent juggernauts from a different era from the streets of Abergavenny for good.”

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