Ministers to consult on 80mph motorway speed limit

Motorway traffic The current limit was set in 1965

Related Stories

The Department of Transport is to launch a consultation on increasing the speed limit on England and Wales' motorways from 70mph to 80mph.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the current limit, introduced in 1965, was out of date due to "huge advances in safety and motoring technology".

The consultation begins this year with a view to raising the limit in 2013.

The Department for Transport says as many as 49% of drivers flout the current 70mph limit.

It says advances in technology have made cars much safer, contributing to a drop of more than 75% in the number of people killed on British roads since the 70mph limit was introduced.

As a result, it says it is time to look again at whether the current limit is "still appropriate".

But road safety charity Brake said it was opposed to any policy which could increase deaths on the road.

Start Quote

What about enforcement? If police follow existing guidelines, many people could do 90mph before action is taken”

End Quote Prof Stephen Glaister RAC Foundation
'Fast lane'

Mr Hammond said England and Wales' roads "should be the arteries of a healthy economy".

He added: "Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.

"Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times."

Mr Hammond also said that motoring technology has "moved on enormously" from when the original limit was introduced.

"Cars are much safer, they have more sophisticated equipment now than they did 40 or so years ago. They are capable of driving safely at higher speeds. There are enormous economic benefits to be had by increasing the speed limit and shortening journey times.

"And the current limit has lost its legitimacy. We all know that many, many motorists who are otherwise law-abiding citizens routinely ignore the 70 miles per hour limit."

Mr Hammond also said he did not think the rise would have a "significant impact on safety".

He added: "The experience in other countries where the limit has been raised, is that actually, the average increase in speed is really, very small.

"What we are doing here, is bringing a lot of drivers who currently, routinely break the speed limit, back on the right side of the law - and that has to be a good thing."

'Empty gesture'

The government says road safety remains a priority, and says it is taking action to tackle uninsured drivers and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

European motorway limits

  • France- 130km/h (81mph)
  • Germany - 130km/h (recommended maximum)
  • Italy - 130km/h
  • Spain - 120km/h (75mph)
  • Portugal - 120km/h
  • Sweden - 110km/h (68mph)
  • Denmark - 110km/h


BBC political correspondent Vicki Young said there had been some concerns within the cabinet about the change - Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is said to be concerned about road safety and and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was worried about the pollution impact.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "There are good reasons for making 80 the new 70, and good reasons not to. Drivers travelling that 10mph quicker might reach their destination sooner but will use about 20% more fuel and emit 20% more CO2.

"There is also likely to be a slight increase in road casualties. And what about enforcement? If police follow existing guidelines, many people could do 90mph before action is taken."

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would not help the economy and would increase costs for drivers.

"It would also add to pollution and increase road casualties. Responsible motorists know that driving steadily at or below 70mph is most fuel-efficient, reduces jams and is safer.

"This is an empty gesture that in the end would not benefit anyone."

Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at road safety charity Brake, said: "We are strongly opposed to the idea of raising the motorway speed limit.

"We would be strongly opposed to any policy that would increase deaths on the roads.

"To have such a policy would be unethical. Each death on the road affects not only the victim but their family too."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    I don't follow the argument that raising the speed limit to 80 will mean people will drive at 90. Personally I would be comfortable driving at 80 but not at 90. This is just a consultation at this stage and it is doubtful that it will be compulsory to drive faster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    I enjoy driving on motorways in France, Germany and Spain, because it is possible to reach their higher speed limits, due to considerate drivers who move out of the overtaking lane. In the UK, the 80mph limit will be useless as long as twits in BMW's (other cars are available, Audi & Mercedes), sit in the outside lane at 68mph whilst all others are empty! Is it any wonder people undertake......

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Has that Minister got a brain? He's already said it himself, more lives will be lost if this law come into effect. Isn't his job to prevent deaths on the roads? He should be employing more people to address the number of fines in situ, rather than evoking even 1 more death. And I can tell you for sure the upped speed limit won't make much difference to journeys time. Except if you meet your end!

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    There was a program on the telly a while ago that ran a Toyota Prius and and i think an Aston Martin (it may have been another supercar) at 70 mph and guess which one was the more fuel efficent (I bet most of you would be wrong!) so while you are hogging the middle lane at 50 mph just spare a thought for the rest of us freezing our arses off this summer (global warming?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Doing 70mph and 80mph does not make much difference in emissions. Congestion on the other hand causes more emissions and uses more fuel. I think what causes more accidents is people who do 60 in the fast lane n cause a big que of frusted drivers. Def a good idea to increase it to 80mph because on average it is a very small difference and will not even feel the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Don't get over excited, drivers - it's only a consultation, and we all know how long that will take, and what will happen to the Report, once it's been published and the H&S doom-mongers have bent some ears ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    Is it right that the speed limit for a 3 lane straight motorway is only 10mph higher than a twisty single lane country road? No

    806. Gwynforsenior
    No, no, no - it's a truly terrible idea. It will force everyone to travel at least at 80mph in order to avoid holding up the traffic

    How many people have you seen on the motorway doing much less than 70? Loads thats how many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    Transport Secretary Philip Hammond - "There are enormous economic benefits to be had by increasing the speed limit and shortening journey times."

    So I can drive from Manchester to London and save 15 mins (ignoring delays on M6 at Birmingham). How is that an "enormous economic benefit"? Wouldn't setting off 15 minutes earlier have the same effect? HAMMOND - you vacuous boy with a sports car.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    Only 80mph? I'm used to driving at 150+mph in Germany and would have liked to see the limit raised to at least 90mph, which I think is at least reasonable. The design speed for British motorways is 100mph, which means that all corners and bumps can safely be taken at that speed, with a safety margin on top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    How about drivers being accountable for their actions!

    A driver doing 30mph on a free flowing motorway is probably more dangerous than the law abiding mid-lane hogging driver doing 70mph or even the law breaking inside lane 80mph driver.

    The time has come for annual refresher driving tests, may be the old lady or old man doing 20 in a 50 zone will fail!

    COMMON SENSE should prevail!

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    This will increase congestion and journey times.

    I know it's counter-intuitive, but if people travel at slower speeds on busy roads there is less stopping and starting and the traffic moves more freely.

    This is just politicians trying to grab headlines and appeal to tabloid readers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    I wish they would make 80 mph speed limit in Canada where I am from. Our speed limit is 100 km or roughly 62 mph. Ridiculous when you see the size of Canada. It would be a dream to get to my destinations in a good time.. We have the technology to design cleaner cars, and design roads to work with higher speed limits. As for safety, well train drivers for higher speeds, its their choice to speed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    No, no, no - it's a truly terrible idea. It will force everyone to travel at least at 80mph in order to avoid holding up the traffic - even if they are more comfortable at slower speeds. Environmentally it gives exactly the wrong messages. And it will increase accidents - especially if, as I suspect, the police don't bother with any enforcement below 90 mph.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    Totally stupid idea, unless the police are going to come down much harder on those exceeding the speed limit. With the speed limit currently at 70 mph, people think it's okay to drive at 80. Raise it to 80, and people will think they can get away with driving at 90. At that speed the merest lapse of concentration can cause multiple fatalities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    3 reasons for not increasing the speed limit to 70:

    Visual cortex latency, electrical charge propagation along nerves and muscle inertia are,for all intents and purposes,constant with respect to a vehicle's velocity.

    The energy pocessed by a moving vehicle is not reduced by improved vehicular technology; contrary to the opinion of an ignorant government minister.

    Insurance premiums will go up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    The reasoning behind this proposal is deeply flawed. Increase the limit because 50% of drivers are breaking it? You will soon find 50% of drivers are exceeding an 80mph limit, and using the same logic you would then raise the limit to 90mph. The faster the speed, the greater the fuel consumption per mile, the greater the noise level, and the greater amount of blinding spray thrown up. Stupid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    I will be absolutely astonished if this gets past the ever growing, ever more vociferous anti-car lobby. Astonished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    The cars are becoming more safe to drive fast but it all depends on the driver who drives the car. I have seen so many drivers adopted some bad habits and these bad habits are dengerous. Become a member of advanced motorist and you will know what to do to drive safely and most effecient way

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    YAY!!! Although it does suck to be sweden, 68mph!

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    I completely agree. On the carbon point: I doubt we'd see much of an increase in speed, but we would legalise the behaviour of the majority of motorists. It's odd that we have a speed limit which the police add a huge margin to before they enforce (rows of traffic going through M25 speed cameras at 80mph every day).

    Drivers looking at the road more and their speedometers less are far safer.


Page 7 of 47


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.