Ministers to consult on 80mph motorway speed limit

Motorway traffic The current limit was set in 1965

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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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the current limit, introduced in 1965, was out of date due to "huge advances in safety and motoring technology".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back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    All those going on about carbon emissions have no real understanding of the whole glbal emissions issue. Agriculture and Livestock create way more greenhouse gases than cars do, cars are 4% globally. Typical lefty liberal nonsense without understanding what they are on about.

    Also new cars are designed to cruise at 65-80 mph, so it won't really affect emissions by more than 2-3% per veihcle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    [on Facebook]:

    "When I drive to Coventry I set cruise control to 85 usually. The 70mph motorway limit is so antique!"

    Well, that's actually illegal and against the Law of the Land, Rebeca. Quite shocking.

    I also totally disagree. I think the speed limit should be REDUCED to 60mph, creating less congestion, more fuel economy, less pollution, better ecology and less accidents.

    1 of 3

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    I am sure it is nothing to worry about.
    Now EU wants to set our speed limits: Brussels plan to enforce 20mph zones and replace Highway Code with European laws
    Motorists over 60 could face compulsory driving tests every two years after EU ruling.

    I cannot put the URL's in but DailyM and others yap on about it.

    Do a search and see what Cafe Brussels smells like ;-).

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    "AndrewHG I guess I'm going to have to travel faster or risk being crashed into by a rep doing 80-90"

    Not if you drive in the correct lane.

    "The article wasn't clear about lorries. A 30 ton truck at 80mph is going to be pretty devastating in a collision."

    Well seeing as they are currently speed limited to 56MPH I can't see that magically increasing to 80MPH.

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.


    Because people won't respect the speed and leave adequete stopping distance between you and the cars around, and increasing the speed limit won't make this happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    Modern cars are a lot less dangerous now at 80MPH than old cars were at 70 when the limit was introduced.
    But is increasing fuel consumption a sensible idea? Granted, popular amongst those who have the money to burn, and who probably vote Conservative, but is that a good enough reason? Yes, i would imagine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    On a 'motorway' most modern cars are capable of acheiving 100 miles per hour while remaining perfectly controlled. As long as you're respecting the speed and leaving adequete stopping distance between you and the cars around then why not?
    In Germany it has been unlimited on low risk stretches of the autobahn for years, not that I would expect our nanny state to ever approach this level of trust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    920. bobbo

    Or the old dear that drives at 40 on a single-carriageway A road, then continues at the same speed when it becomes a 30.

    @914 Wonko-the-sane
    No, you think ! Driving a car at 10mph above the current speed limit does not equate to tax-avoidance, murder or a whole raft of other crimes! Perfectly legitimate argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    I think the real issue is educating drivers about how motorways work, when you have big trucks overtaking other trucks from the slow to the middle lane, or people staying in the fast lane for the entire journey it disrupts the general flow of the traffic. Another issue is underpowered cars, even the slightest rise in the motorway can have massive tail-back effects, no less than 1.4L engines!

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    19 Minutes ago
    I'm surprised that no-one has argued with doing away with the speed limit altogether, maybe make the faster driver culpable as a default position.

    Brilliant idea. That'll make me feel better when I'm dead, "At least they're not blaming me".

    I keep saying this, I'm not against the increase, but I wish someone could put forward a reasonable argument!

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    Herts DT, only 6% of fatal accidents occur on motorways? And this is your logic for allowing that number to increase? A 10mph increase raises the energy of a car by over 30%, leading to more serious injuries, more fatalities. In my opinion, and having lost a relative recently on a motorway, 6% is still 6% too many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    This doesn't go far enough. We should aim to raise the limit to 100mph whilst at the same time introducing continuous examination of our ability as drivers.

    Currently once you pass your test you are not mandated to be examined again until you are 60+ years old. This is madness. We have drivers on our roads who have never had a "proper" test.

    We need: regular tests, higher limits, better cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.

    Perhaps you should get out on some motorways as you will find plenty of people dont travel at lower than 70 now. So why do you think everyone would suddenly start going at 80 just because of an increase in the speedlimit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 925.


    They've admitted it will cause more casualities! They know it will! They just don't care! I'll be frank I have no problem with an 80mph speed limit but please! Don't buy in to this political garbage! I would accept this move whole heartedly if they just gave a good reason as to why!

  • rate this

    Comment number 924.

    To all that say this is a bad idea. If the Department of Transport wants the maximum speed limit to 80mph what stops you to travel at a reduced "sensible" speed in a free lane saving the environment at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    It's like tax evasion - if we can't really stop it, let's allow it. Unless it's something done by the unemployed and poor when it's enforced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    To those of you saying that deaths and accidents are going to increase on the motorways you may want to have a look at the official figures. 60% of Fatalities in Road accidents are on Rural Roads, 34% on Urban Roads and only 6% on Motorways. Speed should be kept appropriate to surroundings, conditions and visibilty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    851. wolfmeister

    No wolfmeister, the breaking isn't caused by people like me who do 70 on the M25.
    It's caused by coming to the tail end of people who have had to break because they have decided to change the limit to 50mph.
    Even though there is no queue or congestion.

    If you want to go slow to save the planet, good for you, I've no issue with that.
    But I want to complete my 200 mile drive asap

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    @RichPS "...should crack down on idiots on the motorways... the person doing 65 in the fast lane, and refusing to move into the middle lane."

    Just met that kind of guy on a 4-lane motorway: made me overtake on the inside, which I hate. Then, at major roadworks with workers in the road he carries on at exactly the same speed. True dangerous driving, but I somehow doubt he'll get pulled over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    To Andrew Davis As a motorcyclist you shouldn't be putting yourself in a situation where you need to "get out of trouble". Read the road, don't take chances and assume that no one has seen you and maybe you'll survive to old age.


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