UCL News


Should motorway speed limits be raised to 80mph?

7 March 2012

In 1965, the UK government set the speed limit for UK motorways at 70mph.

The UK government has indicated its intention to consult on the proposal to increase the motorway speed limit in England and Wales from 70 to 80mph.

PhD student Tom Cohen (UCL Transport Studies) organised a citizens' jury to ask whether participants felt that the motorway speed limit in the UK should be raised.

Tom and Professor Ben Heydecker (UCL Transport Studies) are evaluating the possible consequences such a change could bring to Britain's motorways.

Discussing the role of the citizen's jury in looking at this issue, Tom said: "The idea of a citizen's jury is to gather a demographically representative sample of the British people and present them with expert evidence on a topic of social importance.

"Peoples' opinions became more sceptical concerning the arguments that have been put forward supporting an increase. Two of the three groups arrived at the conclusion that the speed limit should stay at 70mph. One group suggested 80, but insisted it should be enforced at 80.

"We have talked to officers at the Department for Transport who are working on this project in readiness for the consultation.

"Hopefully the citizen's jury hasn't been just an interesting exercise for our own benefit, but has to some extent informed the thinking of the Department for Transport itself."

Commenting on the issue of safety, Professor Heydecker said: "There are many risks associated with increasing speed. There's safety, increase in pollution, increase in petrol usage and, because of reduced travel time, people may choose to travel further - and that in itself will increase exposure to risk and the number of accidents.

"As far as safety is concerned, increase in speed almost always leads to an increase in casualties."

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UCL Centre for Transport Studies