01:12PM, Thursday 30 July 2020
Highways England has given the green light for an increase in speed limits through roadworks on motorways – but only ‘where it is safe’ and shown on road signs.
The 50mph limit has ‘frustrated’ drivers wishing to go quicker, according to the Government agency.
Increasing this to 60mph would cut journey times and bring safety benefits, as ‘more people stick to the higher speed limit’, it said.
The agency has been experimenting with different traffic speeds through roadworks on sections of English motorways and A-roads, including the M4 between junctions three and 12.
These experiments included ‘permanent’, ‘contraflow’ and ‘dynamic’ options. On the M4, they tested the dynamic option, which allowed motorists to travel through roadworks at speeds of up to 60mph, but only on non-working days.
Highways England clarified that the 60mph limit is being brought in now but only ‘where appropriate’.
A spokesman said: “Each road scheme is different. We need to look at the location of the roadworks, the road layout and the work being undertaken to decide the most suitable speed limit.
“We will implement a 60mph speed limit where appropriate but not every set of roadworks will be suitable.
“Road users will still see the use of 40mph and 50mph speed limits.”
The results of the Highways England trials, released on Sunday, showed that the use of 60mph speed limits within roadworks on eight road schemes resulted in drivers saving on average – across all sites – up to almost 3,780 hours of journey time each day.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks.
“They have shorter journey times and feel safe.
“We have a huge programme of work planned so being able to use 60mph, where safe, will continue to improve everybody’s experience of our roads.”
The move was welcomed by Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham), the Royal Borough’s lead member for transport.
He said: “I would find it hard to believe Highways England is proposing an increase if there is a detriment in safety as a result. They will have done risk assessments so it may be that they have determined in certain circumstances that the limits can be raised safely.
“We are in good hands, and we should rely upon their expert knowledge.”
Steve Ferris, programme manager at Safer Roads Berkshire, which delivers road safety training in the county, urged all drivers to ‘use caution’.
“Highways England has done some extensive testing on the strategic network with regards to increasing the speed limits to 60mph through roadworks,” he said.
“We would urge all drivers to use caution when travelling through any area where there are vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists or those working in the road.”
The changes could see Colnbrook with Poyle, Langley Kedermister and Foxborough wards moved from Slough to the Windsor parliamentary constituency.