Sustainable Transport Cymru in Wales 80mph opt-out call

Cars and lorries on the motorway The Department of Transport revealed plans last September to consult on increasing the speed limit on England and Wales' motorways by 2013

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Wales should opt out of UK proposals to raise the motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph, a campaign group says.

Sustainable Transport Cymru (STC) said it feared increased speeds would lead to more accidents, higher casualty rates and more carbon emissions.

Last year the UK government said it would consult on increasing the speed limit on motorways by 2013.

The Welsh government said it would consider safety implications in particular in examining the plans.

Revealing plans for the public consultation last September, the then UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the current 70mph limit on motorways in England and Wales - introduced in 1965 - was out of date due to "huge advances in safety and motoring technology".

Start Quote

The highly regarded British Medical journal can see the dangers in increasing the speed limit and we hope the Welsh government can too”

End Quote Lee Waters Sustainable Transport Cymru chair

STC, a coalition of 25 organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors, said it wanted to speak out before the consultation was officially launched.

Should the UK government decide to raise the speed limit for cars, STC said it wanted the Welsh government to use its power to set its own speed limit.

"The Welsh government has a strong record on road safety, but to sustain this we must continue to make bold decisions that are in the interests of all Welsh people, not the speed of a few," said Mr Waters.

"Ignoring the argument that this decision has the potential to raise our oil consumption and carbon emissions at a time when we need to cut both, this decision also has the potential to devastate family lives."

'Economic benefits'

STC cited a recent British Medical Journal (BMJ) editorial which opposed the speed increase, not just for road safety reasons but because of the consequences of greater car use and emissions to the nation's health.

"The highly regarded British Medical Journal can see the dangers in increasing the speed limit and we hope the Welsh government can too," said Mr Waters.

"As the BMJ argues, if the government is serious about achieving economic benefits it should consider investing in alternatives with a less negative health impact, such as sustainable forms of transport."

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At the moment in many areas on motorway the speed limit is held in contempt. That's why we feel the way ahead is to reinstigate respect for the limit”

End Quote Tim Shallcross Institute of Advanced Motoring

The Sustainable Transport Cymru coalition includes Sustrans Cymru, the Energy Savings Trust, Friends of the Earth and Bus Users UK Cymru.

Tim Shallcross, Welsh spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, would not be drawn on health implications of increasing the limit.

He said the motoring trust supported a trial of the 80mph speed limit on suitable stretches of managed motorways.

These included stretches of motorway where traffic volumes were monitored on a 24-hour-a-day basis; which had variable speed limits and hard shoulders; and which were capable of supporting higher speeds.

'Held in contempt'

However there were no such stretches in Wales at present, Mr Shallcross said.

"The section of M4 round Newport, though managed, is not suitable for trialling the 80mph limit," he said. "It twists and turns and lacks hard shoulders."

Mr Shallcross added: "We would insist on the limit being 80mph and not being a sanction for people to drive at 90mph.

"At the moment in many areas on motorways, the speed limit is held in contempt. That's why we feel the way ahead is to reinstigate respect for the limit."

The Welsh government said the potential to increase the national speed limit from 70 to 80 mph on the motorways in Wales was being examined in order to provide feedback to the proposed UK government consultation.

A spokesperson said: "The safety implications in particular will be considered with a view to presenting appropriate options to the minister."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    I think we have more important things to worry about and don't see this this as a priority. I hope (in Wales at least) we keep the current limit and enforce it properly.
    In most cases driving more slowly saves fuel and, in the UK at least, doesn't make a proportionate difference to journey time (as a regular Friday five-hour commute from Manchester to Cardiff proved).

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    For many years we keep getting advised to travel slower, for fuel efficiency. I adopted this tactic years ago, seldom exceed 65mph on suitable roads, generally 55mph maximum on single carriageways, in a Volvo V70 diesel & in a ancient Land-Rover diesel I am saving possibly 20% fuel costs by speed reduction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    The complaints of increased fuel consumption are reasonable, but if you raise the limit to 80mph surely this caters for everyone's choices. People who want to conserve fuel can drive slower (please in the inside lane) and people who want to go quicker for whatever reason are then not breaking the law. Getting the government to force economical speeds on drivers is unproductive (rebels will rebel)

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    A speed limit of 80mph is in line with advances in technology, and the demands of the population. Carbon emissions need to be reduced by fuel choices, not speed reductions. The outside lanes are for overtaking, not hogging, and on single lane roads, the highway code is quite clear that slower drivers should move aside and let others past. This rarely happens, and causes more accidents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Increasing the speed limit isn't about getting motorists to travel faster but to acknowledge what is already the de facto interpretation of the general public. That is, that as long as the road and the traffic conditions are suitable then it is safe to travel at 80, raising the bar to 80 will allow the police to more effectively catch those that are exceeding the norm and driving dangerously.


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