Exclusive

New 80mph motorway limit, 20mph in towns

Government set to launch radical overhaul of Britain's road regulations

The speed limit on Britain’s motorways is set to rise to 80mph but with a big expansion in the number of 20mph zones in cities and towns, The Independent has learnt.

Click HERE to view graphic (96k jpg)

The Government's intention to bring in the new speed limit will be announced at the Conservative Conference next week by the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, as part of a deal negotiated with the Liberal Democrats.

Ministers will consult on the proposal later in the year along with plans to expand significantly the number of areas covered by a 20mph limit.

Mr Hammond argues that the new 80mph limit will shorten journey times and help boost the economy. But the move will be criticised by environmentalists who point out that cars use about 20 per cent more fuel at the higher speed. Road safety campaigners condemn the proposals, saying it will lead to an increase in deaths and serious injuries.

Police currently turn a blind eye to most motorists who drive at 80mph, and they are rarely prosecuted. There are concerns though that if the change goes ahead, 90mph could become the new 80mph. As part of the deal, the police will be expected to enforce the new speed limit more rigorously.

A source close to the negotiations said: "The Tories wanted to announce the 80mph limit next week because it appeals to their base and they can sell it as promoting business. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats claim there is strong evidence that, in road safety terms, expanding 20mph zones saves lives. A deal has now been done and will all go into one consultation paper."

The latest Department for Transport statistics show that 49 per cent of cars travelling on motorways last year exceeded the 70mph limit. One in seven was recorded at 80mph or faster.

Mr Hammond has already made clear his concern that anti-car campaigners have for too long used road safety as an excuse to prevent the speed limit on motorways being raised.

He believes that safety cannot be the sole determining factor when changing limits, and that the economic impact must also be taken into account.

He has called for a "rigorous cost-benefit analysis of speed limits" which will look beyond simple safety issues. "If you took just that view, you would have 10mph limits everywhere," he said.

Ministers and experts argue that raising the speed limit could boost the economy. They say that a modest rise would mean quicker journeys for employees, reps and delivery vans. Lorries above 7.5 tons are restricted to 60mph on motorways. This is expected to remain.

Supporters of raising the limit point out that when 70mph was introduced, in 1965, it was the maximum speed of most cars at the time.

Opponents say it will lead to an increase in casualties. There were 132 deaths on motorways in 2009, when the total number of road deaths was 2,222 – the lowest since records began.

"The Government should be looking to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads, not putting forward proposals which are likely to increase them," said Ellen Booth, of the campaign group Brake.

Britain has some of the safest roads in Europe, as well as a lower speed limit than most. The maximum in France and Italy is 81mph, while in Ireland, Spain and Portugal it is 75mph. Germany's autobahns are unrestricted.

Is a rise in the speed limit a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test