Wales Election 2016

Conservatives plan 80mph speed limit on M4 and A55

How speed restriction signs could look on the M4
Image caption How speed restriction signs could look on the M4 with a higher speed limit

The speed limit on the M4 and A55 could rise from 70mph to 80mph under plans announced by the Welsh Conservatives.

The party said it would consult on the change if it wins May's assembly election.

Powers to change speed limits are to be handed to the Welsh Government, although it is not clear exactly when.

But road safety charity Brake said the proposals were "disappointing" and suggested a change would lead to more deaths on the roads.

In 2015, UK ministers suggested limits could be raised in some areas of England and Wales.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "The M4 and A55 are vital arteries in the Welsh economy with thousands of commuters relying on their use every day.

"Welsh Conservatives believe that raising the speed limit from 70mph to 80mph [112km/h to 128km/h] could play a vital role in getting our economy moving and offering invaluable support to hard-pressed motorists, commuters and businesses.

"Consultation would be key - ensuring the views of all stakeholders are considered, so any change on the M4 and A55 is delivered with safety paramount."

Image copyright Peter Etchells

But Brake spokesman Jack Kushner said: "We urge the government to reject needless proposals to increase speed limits to 80mph. We're disappointed it is being considered.

"Evidence from previous consultations made it clear that an increase would not only be dangerous - potentially 25 more deaths and 100 more serious injuries each year - but also highly damaging to the environment and economy."

Political parties should focus instead on greater investment in "sustainable" travel and rural transport, he added.

Plaid Cymru said the "real priority" for the two roads was tackling bottlenecks.

Party transport spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "A Plaid Cymru government will press ahead with improvements across the A55 and will resolve the M4 problem around Newport with an effective and cost-efficient scheme that can be delivered quickly."

Welsh Labour said Conservative UK ministers had "ditched plans to raise speed limits because of the huge safety risks".

A spokesman said: "It is ill-conceived and reckless, it will lead to increasing numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads while pushing up the cost of driving and making it harder to cut the emissions that contribute to climate change."

A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "The Tories [at Westminster] first launched a consultation on this in 2011 and nothing has been heard since.

"We will therefore be taking this announcement with a pinch of salt."

UKIP candidate Mark Reckless said his party supported the idea of 80mph in areas where it was safe.

"I'm not sure there's that much of the M4 or the A55 where you would really be able to do 80 miles an hour," he said.

"But we think we need to get on with an M4 relief road," he added. "The Tories can't make up their mind which one they want."

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