80mph motorway limit: consultation announced

10.06 | 30 September 2011 | | 8 comments

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.


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    80 is fine with space. 70 is, too. Problem is, we don’t keep space and we have the inevitable crashes. Enforce speed and space – invest in the technology that German police have used for years.
    “Not invented here syndrome”?
    Oh. And before anyone suggests “the Germans seems to cope with their unlimited m/w’s” – on the 45% of their 12000km m/w network, 73% of their m/w deaths happen.

    david, sheffield
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    Who will benefit from speeds being raised to 80mph on motorways? Petrol sales were down 15% as a result of people driving less. I think it was about £2bn loss to the treasury. Higher speed = higher petrol consumption. Treasury gains, environment etc loses.

    Khair-un-Nisa Simmonds, Greenwich
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    Vehicles have got a lot safer, not sure the same can be said for the drivers in control of those vehicles. Are we going to see some improvement in the learning to drive process which includes motorway driving? Are we going to see an increase in motorway police patrols to deal with tailgaiting and other dangerous / careless driving practices?

    Dave, Leeds
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    Interesting. Who/what will enforce 80mph on the motorway and who/what will enforce 20mph in built up areas? My knowledge and experience would suggest that 20mph are designed to be ‘self enforcing’ and the national speed limit on the MWay is currently not enforced using Controlled Motorways and there are too few traffic cops (cuts!) to patrol every section of the network!…..we could end up with two new speed limits neither of which will be be enforced – didn’t we just witness at first hand the worrying consequences of ‘no rule of law’ during the riots in the UK?…..will pressing ahead with unenforceable speed limits lead to riots on the roads with devastating consequences when it goes horribly wrong? NB: Dave Finney in Slough – have you seen RCGB 1st quarter 2011?….a very worrying lag trend as a result of cuts in road safety budgets since 2007.

    Susan, Northamptonshire
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    Its just politicians playing at politics to me. A lot of hot air and sounding off. And gaining points. We will let you do that if you let us do this etc.

    Why raise the speed limit on motorways when they have already agreed recently on an increase in speeding mph whereby one would not get reported. Makes a nonsense of any increase. The government have so far denied any intent.

    Who does it benefit. No one. Except small vans and commercial travellers. That’s white van man and BMW drivers.

    HGV’s will still be limited with no difference in delivery times.

    It’s understood that in major conurbations traffic travels slower than 20 mph anyway. But the intent is to slow all ratr runs and bye ways etc. where drivers try to make up time by passing the traffic. I have no objections to that though it will not be policed as our streets and roads are not policed anyway. Police nowadays know little to nothing of traffic legislation let alone go out on the streets and police them.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    Alan Duncan on BBC’s Any Questions stated that the law would be changed to reflect what the public are doing anyway. The Govt’s opinion is that drivers do 80mph if they can. That being the case, then the main plank of the Govt’s argument, i.e. that there will be an economic benefit if the NSL were to be raised is spurious in that that is already the case.

    David, Suffolk
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    It seems that we often do the right things for the wrong reasons. Raising the LIMIT on motorways to 80 miles/hr may not make much difference, as the free-flow 85%ile speed on motorways has been at that level for some time, anyway.

    Lowering the limit to 20 miles/hr in appropriate circumstances will make a difference, however, although compliance will not be so easy.

    Both situations would be greatly eased if the government put its weight behind Intelligent Speed Adaptation.
    We’re more fortunate in Scotland – our strategy commits us to the promotion of voluntary ISA in the “medium term”. On the basis that something that does not exist cannot be promoted, this means that the technology to support ISA must be in place in Scotland, by 2014.

    Wish you were here?

    Andrew Fraser STIRLING
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Will deaths rise or fall if NSL raised to 80mph?

    How will the effect on safety be determined? I can’t think of a practical test to separate the effect of NSL to 80mph from all other effects.

    Perhaps road safety campaigners should be asked for their predictions of the fatalities that will occur prior to the change so that claims cannot be manufactured after the event to suit political interests?

    Same for KSI.

    It’s possible that fatalities will fall as a result but, even if they rise, if GDP does improve then more can be spent on NHS (for example). Such income could save more lives than are lost.

    Except that more 20mph will lose some of the GDP gained, costing lives.

    It’s complex so aren’t they changing too much at once that are interconnected so the overall effect will be obscured, leading to years of more spin to justify/attack the changes?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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