South East Wales

Sustainable Transport Cymru in Wales 80mph opt-out call

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

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Secretary Philip Hammond said the current 70mph limit on motorways in England and Wales - introduced in 1965 - was out of date due to "huge advances in safety and motoring technology".

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."

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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