Motorway roadworks speed limit to be raised

Library filer dated 05/01/2004 of roadworks on the M25. Britain's motorway roadworks could be the most efficient in Europe if continental techniques were introduced, the AA Motoring Trust said, Thursday August 25, 2005. A survey of motorway roadworks across Europe has put Britain third out of 11 for efficiency. See PA story TRANSPORT Roadworks. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: Tim Ockenden/PA

The 50mph speed limit in force around motorway roadworks is set to be increased to 60mph.

Highways England said that the increased limit would cut congestion and improve traffic flow, while research conducted using heart monitors showed that motorists felt more relaxed at the higher limit.

The research suggested that motorists driving at 60mph spent less time checking their speedometers and felt safer being able to accelerate away from large lorries – which are restricted to 56mph. The limits are currently enforced by average-speed cameras, which will be recalibrated to 60mph as early as next year on some sites.

The change will first be introduced during the day, though the higher limits will be rolled out to night-time roadwork sites if they are empty of workers.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said the limits were "something we want to introduce to as many roadworks as possible".

Simon Williams of the RAC said: "This is good news for motorists as it should help improve the flow of traffic, which often builds up well ahead of motorway roadworks... increasing the speed limit to 60mph where appropriate also enables motorists who feel threatened by the close proximity of HGVs in roadworks to free themselves."

However, not everybody is so thrilled, with concern expressed that the limits were to be raised during the day, which is still the busiest time on the roads.

Official highways guidelines also state areas with narrow lanes through roadworks must provide a minimum of three metres for lane one and 2.5 metres for lane two – not the largest margin of error, when even a standard family hatchback like a Ford Focus measures over two metres wide including mirrors. Any accidents between cars would likely see more damage caused at 60mph than at 50mph.

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