Government set to revisit motorway speed limit?

13.21 | 3 October 2019 | | 10 comments

The speed limit on motorways could be raised to 80mph as drivers switch to electric vehicles, it has been reported.

According to the Telegraph, transport secretary Grant Shapps is exploring the idea of increasing the speed limit on motorways and some dual carriageways – having concluded that any increased pollution can be offset by the higher uptake of low-emission cars.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Shapps said when the issue was last reviewed in 2011 ministers decided against increasing the limits due to environmental concerns.

However, as the owner of an electric car himself, Mr Shapps said that ‘increased electrification’ on the roads means that the issue should be revisited.

Mr Shapps said: “On 80mph speed limits: I’ve been thinking about this issue and maybe even sought advice on the subject of late. 

“I think there is an argument for looking at our speed limits, both in terms of higher speed limits and actually lower limits – 20mph outside of schools. 

“When it was last looked at in 2011, reviewing the last submission to ministers on the subject, it was thought the carbon emission addition would be too great.

“But since I am a driver of an electric car myself I got to thinking about whether that would still be the case. 

“I think there is an argument that once you have increased the level of electrification and therefore decreased or entirely removed carbon, that you might look at those things again.”

Motorway speed limits back on the agenda
It would not be the first time a Conservative government has expressed a desire to increase the speed limit on motorways.

A 80mph limit was last proposed in 2011, when  Philip Hammond, the then transport secretary, said he wanted the motorway speed limit to reflect the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago.

However, the plans were eventually scrapped, amid fears the move could lead to more collisions and undermine emissions targets.

If the Government chooses to push forward with plans eight years later, there is a strong chance it will be met with opposition once again.

In 2011, a coalition of road safety charities and environmental organisations launched a campaign against the Government plans – suggesting the move would result in more collisions and casualties.

While the current Government believes environmental concerns have been answered, the question about safety will almost certainly remain.



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Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    I actually managed to reach 70mph on occasions on the M4 yesterday. A notable event.

    However, actual speed isn’t the main issue, it is the plonkers who insist on being right up on my rear bumper at any speed.

    They obviously dont read the RSGB website articles.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    So we may have vehicles more capable than of past to cruise at 80 mph. Do we have drivers more capable? With demand from society about life the universe and everything will the driver be able to react in time to avoid an incident. That is assuming the driver is not texting, phoning or just being distracted by passengers.
    On the other hand I say go for it. With all the repairs and road works and their cones we will still be stuck with fixed speed cameras and a 50 mph speed.

    Peter Wilson, Chichester
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    On the day of Extinction Rebellion Demonstrations, it’s pretty depressing that the Government would even consider that any increased pollution can simply be happily offset by the introduction more low-emission cars.
    I think the time for doing the bare minimum in order to maintain the status quo has passed us a long time ago.

    John, West Midlands
    Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

    Motorways are fine as long as there isn’t a meed to slow rapidly, or even stop for whatever reason.. that’s when the problems and the crashes happen i.e. too little space to stop, compounded by going too fast to be able stop in that available space. At high speeds in a straight line, the slightest sudden steering correction can lead to loss of control, the car starts fishtailing and the next stop is the crash barrier or the vehicle in front.

    Driving at 50, 60 or 70 mph on M’ways in modern cars for long, uneventful periods can lull drivers into a false sense of security leading to concentration lapses until it’s too late.

    If so many motorists are unable to cope with M’way driving now with a 70 limit, we don’t need a higher limit.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (8) | Disagree (4)

    Driving at higher speeds only uses more fuel. So it’s a clever ploy to get more tax from the motorist at the pump.

    Mel Vincent, Poole
    Agree (2) | Disagree (4)

    The physics are exactly the same. The major force to overcome at speed on the motorway is wind resistance that is proportional to speed squared. It therefore takes 30% more energy to move through the air at 80mph compared to 70mph. (8×8/7×7=1.30)

    Unless he has a magic energy tree, like the magic money tree that seems to have suddenly come to life, then increasing the motorway speed limit is just a distraction.

    As for 20mph limits just outside schools. Great for those children being driven to schools, but gives preferential safety to them whilst at the same time endorsing a 50% increase in speed once past the school gates for all those children and parents choosing to walk and cycle the whole way from home to school.

    But even then, the idea that there is a safety benefit to children that only be considered if motorists were given something in return is invidious.

    This idea seems to quite regularly surface at the time of Tory conferences, only to be dismissed once the cold light of day arrives.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (11) | Disagree (7)

    David: I was comparing the everyday family saloons from 50 years ago with their modern equivalent – not coaches! Yes there were high performance saloons in the sixties, but these were the exception not the norm, as we have now.

    Technological advances in everyday cars’ safety such as braking systems air bags etc.etc. are all well and good but the their ability to accelerate faster and have higher top speeds tends to counter these safety features.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (4) | Disagree (7)

    > When referring to the ‘reality of modern vehicles’ … or their ability to easily accelerate and reach speeds

    Sorry, but I’d like to introduce you to the BMMO C5MT, a coach developed for the beginning of the motorway age. Designed for a service speed of approximately 85mph to 90mph when on the motorways between Birmingham and London, it’s not just modern vehicles that are rapid. This was a coach, designed in the 60s!

    David Weston, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

    “.. the then transport secretary, said he wanted the motorway speed limit to reflect the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago.” No mention of reflecting on the reality of the general lack of ability of motorists controlling a vehicle at high speeds then?

    When referring to the ‘reality of modern vehicles’, did he mean their braking systems and protection systems, or their ability to easily accelerate and reach speeds which make collisions more likely in the first place?

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (6) | Disagree (10)

    I was reviewing the comments on the previously linked articles – just to see whether or not I would expect to see the same opinions being raised over the next few days – the same ones that always appear when this strangely controversial topic – albeit very welcoming – is raised, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at one of the comments I had seen:

    > It’s just a red herring. The government have no intention of raising the legal speed limit but it takes one’s mind off something else. At the end of the day they knew that safety organisations would be against it and they will be seen to conceed. They knew that from the outset.

    Surprisingly apt considering the current political context.

    David Weston, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

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