The speed limit on motorways affected by roadworks has been increased from 50mph to 60mph to cut journey times and minimise frustration, Highways England confirmed. This change – that also applies to major A roads – follows a trial of the higher speed limit over 18 months. On average, it found that journey times fell by 3,780 hours a day, at 8 sites. Also, the average speed of traffic increased and more motorists stayed within the legal limit.
Highways England therefore explained that ‘where it is safe for road users and road workers’, vehicles can be driven at ‘up to 60mph’ if this higher limit is confirmed by signs. It is not therefore a blanket policy. Chief Executive, Jim O’Sullivan, added:
‘Research showed that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks. They have shorter journey times and feel safe.’ He also suggested that whereas people ‘understand’ the need for roadworks they are ‘frustrated’ by delays. So, the purpose of the trial was to see whether a higher speed limit can reduce this frustration without excessively increasing the risk to workers (and motorists).
Mr O’Sullivan further explained that there is a vast amount of roadworks planned for the immediate future, so the higher speed limit is likely to benefit a lot of people. ‘We have a huge programme of work planned, so being able to use 60mph where safe will continue to improve everybody’s experience’, he emphasised.
Highways England also consulted motorists to establish whether there is support for the new, higher speed limit close to roadworks. They concluded there is. Motorists claimed that the limit is ‘appropriate’ and ‘safe’, for example. ‘I cannot believe the time we have made up already in our journeys’, a driver stated.
AA welcomes higher roadworks speed limit
AA President, Edmund King, also welcomed the higher limit on stretches of motorway affected by roadworks. Driving at 60mph is ‘often safer than driving at 50mph’, he argued. Mr King then added:
‘Sticking to 50mph often leads to other drivers tailgating in order to try to force vehicles to pull over. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways or motorways is also 60mph, so sometimes this leads to tailgating in 50mph limits.’
He further suggested that some works are so long that a higher speed limit is necessary to ensure any delays are reasonable – rather than excessive. ‘We have very long stretches of roadworks such as the 32 miles being converted to smart motorway on the M4’, Mr King emphasised. ‘Here, 60mph would seem more appropriate.