The Government is proposing to raise the national speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 miles per hour, claiming the increase would be good for business.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond says that raising the motorway speed limit would generate significant economic benefits, worth hundreds of millions of pounds per year from savings of travel time.
“While we must ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world, we must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times,” explained Hammond.
“Increasing the speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 miles per hour for cars, light vans and motorcycles could provide hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits for the economy and I will put forward formal proposals for making these changes later this year.”
However, the Transport Committee’s report on Road Traffic Speed found that higher speeds would do little to reduce journey times on congested motorways and an 80mph limit might well increase them, because it would create an uneven flow.
A concept which the Government had appeared to have signed up to with its policy on ‘managed motorways’.
A pilot ‘Active Traffic Management’ scheme on the M42 was introduced in 2006, allowing traffic to drive on the hard shoulder at busy times, while crucially decreasing the speed limit when traffic flows increased.
It produced a 24% reduction in average journey times, according to the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
Val South, fleet manager at Xerox, said: “I have yet to be convinced that this is good for the economy or the environment.
“I feel that raising the speed limit is merely a formality to bring the speed limit in line with what the majority of the road users are doing.
“How is someone driving their vehicle faster any good for business unless you own a fuel station?”
Driving at 80mph could use up to 20% more fuel than at 70mph, while the environmental impact from increased CO2 emissions make the benefits of a higher limit seem even less clear cut.
Hammond’s plans also fail to understand that a large number of companies have their vans fitted with speed limiters.
Nevertheless, a Fleet News poll reveals a majority of respondents (65%) still believe raising the speed limit would be good for business
Leigh Stiff, fleet manager at Hannaford, said: “Surely, educating road users to effectively use the motorways would be a more sensible solution, as opposed to raising the limit to a speed which many will find generally unachievable on our congested roads.”
But perhaps the most damaging consequence of increasing the speed limit would be the impact it could have on the number of road traffic accidents.
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