Slow Down On Fast Track Faster Motorway Speeds
Road safety campaigners are claiming a victory as it was revealed by Sky News that plans to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph have been postponed by Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin when he decided that the idea was "not a priority".
Initially the idea had been mooted back in 2011 by the then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond who had suggested that the current 70mph speed limit was not enough in these days of high-powered cars, having been introduced in 1965, but his successor, Patrick McLoughlin, is not as keen; which is, of course good news for road safety groups.
The Times newspaper reported that Mr McLoughlin felt that, because “...you would have to do trials in certain areas, it's not something that's a high priority," and went on to quote ‘a source close to the Transport Secretary’ as saying: "This is not going to happen with Patrick McLoughlin as Transport Secretary. Safety is paramount to him and his view of how to run the roads and he would not be confident about how you would do it."
It should be noted that the plans, announced at the 2011 Tory Party conference by Mr Hammond, have not been cancelled altogether – just put on the back burner (or ‘into the slow lane’ as one commentator said – despite there technically being no slow lane on motorways.) So claims that a rise to 80mph would "restore the legitimacy" of the [traffic] system and benefit the economy by "hundreds of millions of pounds" will not be tested – for now!
And neither will the claims from anti-80mph groups such as road safety charity Brake, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and Greenpeace that a raise in the motorway speed limit to 80mph would result in more deaths and serious injuries per annum (25 and 100 respectively), more costs in both fuel bills (£766m) and health (£62m), and a rise in carbon emissions of around 2.2 million tonnes.
Not everyone is pleased with news of the postponement. Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "Once again we are getting confused messages from the Department for Transport on this issue. With a little imagination and some investment the Dutch have shown that you can have a safe 80mph limit on the best parts of the motorway network.”
And Mr Greig also put a suggestion forward as to why the proposal has been sidelined. "What Patrick McLoughlin has learned from Holland, however, is that the policy was not as popular as the politicians thought it would be and they promptly lost the next election."
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, had another idea why. "The real stumbling block is likely to have been enforcement. Police already tend to give speeding drivers some leeway, so it was quite feasible that an 80 mph limit would have actually meant 90 mph in practice and that proved a step too far for ministers."
So; is it good or bad news for the motorist? Only time will tell. In the meantime, drivers will have to either stick to the limit or run the risk of prosecution as the break the law.
I suggest the former rather than the latter.