According to an interview by Stephen Hammond MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, with Auto Express this month the government’s plan to introduce an 80 mph speed limit on motorways is back on.
Mr Hammond told Auto Express “We are thinking about how we could trial it rather than go to a consultation.”
The trials will reportedly take place at three locations across the country but ease off that accelerator because if we do see a trial it seems unlikely it will be before next summer as it could take a year to put the regulatory format in place.
You’ll have spotted of course that we said the plan was “back on” in the introduction because the “80 mph” idea is nothing new. It was first seriously raised all the way back in early 2011 - floated under the banner as a way to boost the economy. But the scheme was widely reported as having been dropped by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, only as recently as February this year. And now another policy U-turn.
So it’s difficult to say with any certainty whether we‘ll see the speed limit change, or even see the trials for that fact, but while we’re talking about it again let’s take a look at a couple of key aspects about the scheme.
Impact on Road Safety
Figures show that motorways see the fewest number of accidents across the UK road network. In part this is because they’re simply “safer” roads but because fewer journeys are made on them. So what impact would the change to the speed limit have on the road safety?
While there were only 92 fatalities on motorways in 2011 (We say “only” as this was in comparison to 923 on “non-built up” roads and 782 on “built up” roads in the same period), somewhat unsurprisingly given the higher speeds involved, when accidents do occur they’re more likely to result in a fatality than on “built up” roads (roads with a speed limit of less than 40mph).
And Brake, the road safety charity, are pretty clear on what they believe the impact will be – increased road deaths. In fact the “No to 80” campaign, which Brake support, have used a “widely accepted statistical model” to predict that we would see an additional 25 deaths per year on the motorways by increasing the speed limit to 80mph.
This is obviously something no-one wants to see least of all Mr McLoughlin who, let’s not forget, back in October last year stated “What’s very important is that we never lose sight about the issue of safety on our roads”.
For us at Navman Wireless the choice is clear, the impact on road safety has to be the deciding factor about whether to implement these proposals.
Cost to Motorists
When considering the rise in speed limits it’s always interesting to think about the economics behind it. Especially when part of the rationale for raising the speed limit is so squarely to “get the economy moving”.
The undisputable fact of the matter is: The faster you drive on a motorway the more fuel you use. In fact, depending on a few factors, you’ll use somewhere between 10% and 15% more fuel when you increase your speed by just 10mph from 70mph to 80mph.
And combined with the consistently high fuel prices that now see 800,000
households spend more than a quarter of their income on running a car , can we really afford to increase the speed limit?
Well we weren’t the first to think of this. The Campaign for Better Transport has predicted that even taking into consideration the time-savings for motorists (which are marginal), overall the increase in the speed limit would hit the motorists wallet to the tune of just over £200 each year.
So while an 80 mph limit might see more revenue going to the Treasury it seems the sums behind the scheme just don’t add up and this could have a catastrophic effect on the finances of individuals, businesses and those of the wider community.