The motorway speed limit will increase from 70mph to 80mph in 2013, under Government plans – a move aimed at boosting the economy, the Transport Secretary has said.
Speaking to Sky News, Philip Hammond said: “This is a clear proposal from the Government to increase the motorway speed limit to 80 miles an hour.
“Principally this is about the huge time savings that would be available by improving journey times, hundreds of millions of pounds worth a year of time savings.
“And also the benefit of bringing millions of ordinary motorists, who are otherwise law abiding, back on the right side of the law because frankly the current speed limit has lost legitimacy.”
The current 70mph national speed limit was set in 1965.
Sky’s Martin Brunt on plans to raise the speed limit
Since then advances in vehicle technology and design have contributed to more than a 75% drop in the number of people killed on British roads.
The Department of Transport has been reviewing the 70mph speed limit for some time.
From its analysis, so far it has concluded that raising the motorway speed limit would generate “significant economic benefits, worth hundreds of millions of pounds per year, particularly from savings of travel time”.
A limit of 80mph would represent the best balance of costs and benefits, as well as bring the UK in line with other EU countries, it claimed.
Although the move may be welcomed by some, the head of the RAC Foundation Professor Stephen Glaister was not convinced.
Commenting on the proposal, he said: “Drivers travelling that 10mph quicker might reach their destination sooner, but will use about 20% more fuel and emit 20% more CO2.
Nearly 49% of drivers flout the 70mph motorway speed limit.
“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.
“Local authorities already have the power to set 20mph limits, and that’s how it should stay.
“Before you change a speed limit, you have to know whether you are doing it for safety, economic or environmental reasons. Unfortunately not all of these are compatible.”