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The Government should speed ahead with an 80 mph limit

TimesspeedBy Harry Phibbs
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The splash in The Times this morning is taken from their interview with the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, who is shelving the plans of his predecessor, Philip Hammond, who said that raising the speed limit "would bring hundreds of millions of pounds of economic benefits from faster journey times." 

The report adds:

Last May Mike Penning, then the Roads Minister, announced that he would set up 80mph trials on parts of the motorway network. Only last week his successor, Stephen Hammond, told a motoring forum that the initiative was still alive and suggested that trials would be held next summer.

However, Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, made clear in an interview published in The Times today that the plans had been dropped.

“Look that’s not a priority, to be absolutely honest,” he said. “You would have to do trials in certain areas so it’s not something that’s a high priority.”

Why isn't this a priority? Measures to boost economic growth are supposed to be. The explanation given for the change, that women voters oppose it is contradicted by the same report:

A survey of 13,000 drivers conducted for the AA found that 63 per cent of drivers were in favour, including 73 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women. However, 41 per cent of women drivers think that the limit should remain at 70mph.

So most women would favour the change - it is just that the majority among men supporting it is even greater.

However another explanation is offered: 

A source close to the Transport Secretary added: “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.”

There will always be scare mongering from campaign groups. There are also the vested interests of those in the road safety industry whose salaries are paid by the fines from speed cameras.

On the other hand some will have genuine concerns. It is responsible to hold trials in case the concerns that acccidents would increase are valid. However international comparisons show evidence to the contrary. The United States has among the lowest speed limits, but has the same fatality rate as Germany which has no limit. Increases in speed limits in various parts of the US  coincided with reduced accidents.

Perhaps there was less bunching. Perhaps motorists were concentrating on their driving rather than looking out for police cars or cameras.

That last point is not only about safety but also the rule of law. A law that is so unreasonable and so widely flouted not only wastes police time but also undermines the authority of the police.

Mr McLoughlin should get Mr Hammond's proposal back on the road.


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