Motorway Roadworks Speed Limit May Rise to 60mph
Speed limits through motorway roadworks could be eased to allow cars to travel at 60mph rather than 50mph. The slower limits have become a common sight as the £6 billion expansion of smart motorways continues despite safety concerns.
One of the longest 50mph zones stretches for 34 miles along the M4 between London and Reading, where work isn’t due to finish until 2022.
Many motorists blame the slower speeds for increasing congestion and making their journeys less safe because of the threat of tailgating lorries.
Although the speed limits are designed to protect roadside labourers, rumours of stretches of works left unattended at night and during weekends abound.
A significant drop in traffic levels has left motorists even more frustrated by the restrictions.
A small trial in 2018 found there were no differences in safety between 50mph and 60mph, while the faster speeds also improved traffic flow.
Highways England has carried out a new 12-month trial looking at raising limits where safe to do so and results will be shared next month.
The move could spell the end of 50mph limits in some areas while other roads may lower limits when roadside workers are present.
The M4 used a ‘dynamic’ scheme on junctions 3 to 12, where 60mph limits were in place at certain times and at weekends when no work was being carried out.
A Highways England spokesman said: “We understand people get frustrated with roadworks.
“That is why we have been carrying out these further trials to look at where we can increase the speed limit to 60mph in different types of roadworks and in different ways – such as 24/7, or when there is less activity on site, or on the side of the road furthest from road workers.”
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, who sits on the Government’s Motorists Forum sub-group on roadworks, said: “[drivers] can only hope that all the years of works and reduced speed limits are worth it in terms of increased capacity. Worryingly though, drivers tell us they have serious concerns about how safe these motorways are.”
The BBC revealed in March that 38 people had been killed on smart motorways in the last five years.
A stretch of one of England’s major roads has even seen a 20-fold increase in ‘near-misses’ in the five years since being converted to a smart motorway.