Speed limit for tanks doubled on British roads

Updated: 
The Queen's Royal Hussars (QRH) with the Challenger 2 main battle tank at Hohne ranges Germany.
Cpl Ross Fernie RLC/PA WIRE

Tanks and other British Army armoured vehicles will be allowed to drive at 40mph on public roads – double their current limit – ministers have announced.

The move is aimed at reducing tailbacks on rural roads, which have led to dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by frustrated members of the public.

The Government had reduced the speed limit for tracked armoured vehicles to 20mph just 18 months ago, after it emerged that defence chiefs had incorrectly assumed that military vehicles were exempt from the limit imposed on tracked vehicles in 1977. It has since reversed its decision following appeals from the Ministry of Defence.

Army battle tanks are a frequent sight on rural roads near firing ranges such as Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, and tank crews are expected to undertake a portion of their training on public highways.

However, a consultation published last week by transport minister Robert Goodwill, warned that tank operators would lack the driving skills required for battle unless they could drive on roads at higher speed.

Motorists caught behind slow-moving tanks have often resorted to reckless driving in an attempt to get past. The Telegraph reports that there were 36 near-misses caused by drivers trying to get past army vehicles between November 2013 and July 2014 alone.

Mr Goodwill's report says: "Armoured vehicles travelling at 20 mph on public roads can cause long queues of traffic to build up behind them, increasing journey times for all road users.

"There are safety implications of the speed differential when travelling at 20 mph on fast flowing roads, with limited sight lines, where civilian vehicles travelling at speed may encounter one or more armoured vehicles.

"Tailbacks resulting from slow-moving armoured vehicles may lead frustrated motorists to attempt dangerous overtaking manoeuvres."

Ministers were forced to weigh up the benefits of operating tanks at higher speeds, which the consultation claims is better for both the machines and their operators, against the increased severity of any potential collision.

Poking fun at the situation, professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "Tank commanders should beware. While they will theoretically be allowed to go faster, congestion might mean they never get near the limit as they are stuck in the same jams as the rest of Britain's 38 million drivers," The Telegraph reports.

"At least they'll be in the right vehicles to tackle the potholes that blight the road network."