Following a week of intense speculation, Philip Hammond has announced a public consultation about raising the speed limit from 70 to 80mph on Britain’s motorways.
The transport secretary made the announcement at the Conservative party conference (3/10/11), unveiling plans to launch a full public consultation on the issue later this year, with a view to implementing any change in early 2013.
In a press release, the DfT says that "technological advances mean that cars are significantly safer than they were when the motorway speed limit was set in 1965" and that this has contributed to a fall of more than 75% in the number of people killed on Britain’s roads since then. This is why the Government feels that now is the time to consider whether the speed limit is still appropriate.
The DfT release also says that the Government believes that "safety cannot be the only consideration when setting speed limits" and that "previous analysis shows that raising the motorway speed limit would generate significant economic benefits, worth hundreds of millions of pounds per year from savings of travel time".
Philip Hammond said: "I want to make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago.
"While we must ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world, we must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times.
"Increasing the speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 miles per hour for cars, light vans and motorcycles could provide hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits for the economy and I will put forward formal proposals for making these changes later this year."
David Williams, GEM’s CEO, said: “I simply cannot understand this. From a road safety perspective we believe it would be a disaster.
"There are very obvious road safety implications including drivers having less time to react at higher speeds. Given the road safety record is currently heading in the wrong direction, this alone is a good enough reason not to raise the limit.
“To say an increase will improve the economy is frankly ridiculous – unless of course they are looking at the duty they will receive in revenue from the increased use of fuel? It seems this move is being made to deflect the real issues that cause delays in journeys such as road works and potholes. GEM feels this is where the Government should start if they want to look at the area of transport as a means of improving the economy.”
Click here to read the full DfT press release.