Highways England to increase motorway road works speed limit

12.00 | 22 October 2017 | | 3 comments

Image: Highways England

Highways England is to increase the speed limit deployed at motorway road works, according to various media reports over the weekend.

The move follows trials at two motorway locations which showed that drivers’ heart rates were lower when the road works speed limit was 55mph or 60mph, rather than the 50mph which is currently used at these sites.

Although there is no official announcement on the Highways England website, Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, told The Times that the 60mph limit was "something that we want to introduce to (at) as many road works as possible".

While the move has been broadly welcomed in some quarters, the trade union which represents road workers has expressed safety concerns. A spokesperson for Unite told BBC News the move will “make potentially lethal accidents even more common”.

The RAC described the move as “good news for motorists”.

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “Where safe to do so, increasing the limit through road works will provide better, more reliable journeys for drivers – many of whom become frustrated with a 50mph limit when there is no work going on.

“Highways England has listened to motorists and found through these trials that safety will not be compromised.”

Under the headline ‘motorway gladness’, The Sun says Highways England is introducing the move with the country at ‘tipping point’ with regard to the number of road works on the country’s motorway network.

The move appears to be part of a drive by Highways England to reduce the inconvenience caused by road works.

On 19 October, the agency amended its £15bn road improvement programme to ‘reduce the impact of road works on motorists and minimise congestion while improvements take place’.

In an unrelated move that also affects motorway drivers, it was announced last week that motorists who ignore red ‘X’ signs on smart motorways are to be given £100 fixed penalty notices from early next year.

Category: Speed.


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    Any information on how a significant number of drivers’ heart rates were able to be measured and how reliable and conclusive the results were? Perhaps they should have also measured those reputedly ‘slower’ heart rates just after a panic stop by some of the too fast/too close drivers who use our Motorways.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Oh dear! More success for the road transport lobby. Why is it not realised that the groups representing hauliers are continuing to press limits to be increased so that their member drivers, restricted to 56mph, are all taken out of the enforcement envelope?

    Raising the speed limit for HGVs means that these vehicles can be driven on their limiters at 56mph in a 50mph speed limit with no fear of prosecution for excess speed. Meanwhile, drivers observing the 50mph speed limit are being hounded by these 40ton monsters doing 6mph faster than they are allowed and police thresholds are at 57mph.

    Perhaps the next time I am working on a motorway behind a line of plastic cones I will be reassured that drivers heart-rates are slow while mine is at an alarming rate…while it remains beating that is.

    The way to get drivers heart rates down in road works is to perhaps get professional drivers to drive professionally.

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    From what I have read it’s only going to be at the beginning of road works. The areas that entail warning drivers of restrictions ahead and of moving them over, and that’s areas covered by cones and not where workers will be in danger. Those areas should be protected by a concrete barrier anyway. That would reduce the risk of injury to workers.

    My greatest concern when in these narrower lanes and doing the speed limit of 50 mph is being either overtaken by large 44 ton HGVs in the outside lane now and doing more than the speed limit or of having such a vehicle only feet from the rear of my vehicle. Let’s not forget that in the last 2 months there have been a couple of fatal incidents of cars being completely run over and squashed by HGVs on motorways. Speeding up traffic will not teach drivers, particularly HGV drivers, to give safer space anyway so it won’t make driving in congested traffic any safer just faster with less safe space at the greater speed of 60 mph. Space is something that drivers don’t give but really need if they only knew it. It’s what drivers need in order to feel safer and reduce the heart rate and blood pressure.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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