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UK Transport Minister claims ‘blanket’ 20mph speed limits make roads less safe

30 Sep 2023 4 minute read
UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper. Photo Lucy North PA Images. 20 mph sign Photo Edinburgh Greens is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Putting in place “blanket” 20mph speed limits means drivers are less likely to slow down on roads where there is a school or children are playing, the UK Government’s Transport Secretary has claimed.

Mark Harper said widespread use of a 20mph limit “damages the ability” for the zones to have an impact on roads where a lower speed is required for safety reasons because drivers are “less likely to comply”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Friday that guidance would be reviewed on the use of 20mph limits in England to “prevent their blanket use in areas where it is not appropriate”.

It comes after the Labour-run Welsh Government dropped the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph for restricted roads in a move it predicts could save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties in the first decade.

Perfect sense

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to stick with the position where 20mph speed limits make perfect sense, for example, outside a school or in a heavily built-up area where you might have children playing in a residential area or where there is a particular issue with accidents.

“In those areas it makes perfect sense.

“What we are against, and what we are looking at strengthening guidance about, is avoiding the blanket imposition of a 20mph speed limit like we’ve seen in Wales.”

He said 20mph had been imposed “irrelevant to the conditions” on some roads in Wales.

Mr Harper added: “(That) makes life harder for drivers, doesn’t deliver any benefits, actually damages the ability of 20mph speed limits to make people safer because if you put them in inappropriate places, actually people are less likely to comply even when they make sense.”

The Conservative Cabinet minister told Times Radio that a study commissioned by the DfT indicated a reduction to 20mph “doesn’t actually make much difference” to driver speeds.

The study published in November 2018 found 20mph limits in residential areas were supported by the majority of residents and drivers.

The report concluded there was no evidence of a significant drop in the number of crashes and casualties after the introduction of 20mph limits.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists” after announcing a slew of pro-driving policies ahead of the Tory conference, starting in Manchester on Sunday.

He tweeted: “We are a nation of drivers.

“Most of us use a car every day and, for many, life would be difficult without their car.

“But too often, drivers feel under attack. That changes today with a long-term plan to improve drivers’ experience on the road.”

The package of measures, as well as stronger guidance on 20mph speed limits, will also include similar action on low traffic neighbourhoods in England to “focus on local consent”, according to DfT officials.

A National Parking Platform pilot will be rolled out, meaning drivers should only have to use one app to pay for parking instead of downloading multiple versions.

Charges will be applied on utility firms that dig up roads during peak times, with the extra money used to fix potholes.

Guidance will be strengthened to make sure bus lanes only operate “when necessary” and a consultation will be launched on motorcycles using bus lanes, the DfT has confirmed.

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh — referencing the criticism Mr Sunak received after saying he had scrapped a policy of households needing seven bins — said the 20mph announcement was “yet another ban on something that doesn’t exist”.

She tweeted: “Mark Harper cannot offer a single example of a 20mph zone that will change under this announcement.”

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “It’s extremely positive to see issues that affect the nation’s 33 million car drivers being given such prominence ahead of a general election.

“At the same time, it is important to consider the needs of all road users, particularly as many drivers can also be pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders, and vice versa.

“While this will always be a balancing act we have to match competing priorities such as safety, time-efficient travel with tackling traffic congestion and improving air quality.”


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Richard 1
Richard 1
7 months ago

Yes I heard this. The tories are making the 20 limit an election campaign tool, which is very irresponsible and will encourage non-compliance on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. A sorry comment on the standard of political discourse.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago

The man is a liar, he works for a liar who leads a Party of liars…

Mr Siencyn, you could explain in simple terms how we have done it in Gwynedd…

cablestreet
cablestreet
7 months ago

Didn’t hear the radio 4 interview but saw the interview on BBC Breakfast this morning where he continued to peddle the 20mph blanket lie promoted by RTD and his cronies in the Senedd.
DId he even have a clue what he was talking about? I think not. Another Tory minister totally out of their depth!

A.Redman
A.Redman
7 months ago
Reply to  cablestreet

Do you honestly think every minister in every government in the UK are experts in their particular field?

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago
Reply to  A.Redman

No and certainly in this Tory Westmonster government, they have transparently proven that none of them are. Thanks for a rare glimpse of transparency I suppose.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
7 months ago
Reply to  cablestreet

Most Tory politicians – if not all – would be out of their depth on a damp pavement.

Llyn
Llyn
7 months ago

There are good reasons for being against a default 20mph limit but the idea that driving slower is more dangerous is a flat out lie, just like the ‘blanket’ claim. The Conservative Party are now no more than a populist far-right party peddling lies.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
7 months ago

Just like in Wales it is the councils in England that have a final decision as to what roads become 20mph. So obviously it’s not a ‘blanket’ decision as the Tories keep lying about. Sunak knows this and is trying to stop councils in England implementing 20mph speed limits. The Tories will lie until they are blue in the face to save their arses at the the next GE – ignore them.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

There is that saying that if a Torys’ lips are moving, they are lying. Now anyone who says that is just being mischievously facetious we would have to cut a little slack maybe BUT if they are using the word ‘blanket’ when speaking about 20mph in Wales, they are DEFINITELY LYING!

Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

There we are. Pushing the lie. “blanket”. Forget all the deaths the Conservatives have caused since 2010. Forget Boris (when Rishi was his chancellor), forget Liz (tanked a nation), forget Rishi putting Braverman (security risk and all around nasty person) back in post, forget the racist language around refugees, forget the UK in a mess, forget the poverty and energy crisis, forget the donation to their party from big oil, forget the green issues dumbed down……. lets go after a teeny tiny issue to try to cover up the absolute state they have lowered the UK to.

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
7 months ago

I don’t know what he is on about the decision is very popular here in Wales.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

Today the English Transport Secretary Mark Harper falsely stated when interviewed on the BBC that the 20mph default speed limit was a blanket ban in Wales , when l totally untrue. And even when he was fact checked , again repeated the same untruth even though informed how there were still 30mph zones he stuck to the Tory script of attacking the Welsh Labour government & Wales and how it was a war on the motorist. I’ve noticed similar tactics were used to demonise the Welsh NHS when in 2015 David Cameron claimed Offa’s Dyke was a “line between life… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Apologies. Correction. The Scottish independence vote was in 2014 not 2016 as stated. That was the Brexit vote. My error. Although the same tactics mentioned were used for both Scottish independence & Brexit referendums where Wales & Welsh Government were attacked by the Tories because Labour was in power and how they deliberately avoided attacking the SNP fearing any backlash, especially seeing they lied to the Scots about Devo-Max and how they were secretly planning behind the scenes the Brexit referendum at the same time they were telling Scottish voters by voting no to independence and yes to the British… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago

When A R T Davies and his party started the ” blanket ” lie, it opened the door to allow lie after lie to be peddled. I have seen today on a BBC HYS a person claiming that our Gov have now removed 20mph signs from school locations due to the blanket ban. It just gets worse, and Mr Davies has a lot to answer for.

Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

How many protested today. Numbers looked low, sorta points at the petition being meddled with.

Bachgen o Lerpwl
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

I know and thr petition will blow over and everyone will vote Labour again. Mr Drakeford will be viewed kindly by history.

Hywel
Hywel
7 months ago

So which less heavily built up areas would have no children Mr. Harper?

Cat
Cat
7 months ago

Well I am desperate for a 20mph limit in our town. I’m fed up for tractors and trucks speeding through – I’m hoping more of them stick to 20mph now all our signs are up. As for the Tories, after 13 years in power, the highest taxes since the war and an absolute shambles of management of brexit, justice, prisons, benefits plus massive government fraud – the only thing they have to offer is racist and homophobic slurs, waffle about pot holes and finger pointing at Wales. Begone I say, begone.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago

How many O levels does it take to be a Tory MP…just the one…Zero intelligence…

Trump and Bully XL Braverman: a match made in Hell…

Last edited 7 months ago by Mab Meirion
Ieuan Evans
Ieuan Evans
7 months ago

I travelled from Llandudno to Wrecsam today and was surprised that this so called blanket cover allowed me most of the journey to travel at 70, 60, 50, 40 and 30mph. I wonder whether Sunak and his cronies could explain to me how I was able to do that.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago
Reply to  Ieuan Evans

Between Holyhead and Dolgellau there is less than a mile of 20 mph…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Tories have two stock answers: no comment or a lie…

Mr Drakeford RAT Davies needs to be kept in after school for the rest of term, he is an ‘absolute disgrace’…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

A freedom of information request to quantify the number of MP’s in parliament with a law degree was refused…

Pete
Pete
7 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Keep on south on the A470 and you need to reach Rhayader before you clock up the second mile. A stretch around a bridge you can only safely cross at 10mph a bit though the middle of Caersws then a longer stretch either side of the clock tower in Rhayader

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago
Reply to  Ieuan Evans

Exactly. The Tories up there sitting behind and therefore supporting the lie know full well that the A55 is not a 20mph road as ‘blanket’ suggests.

Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
7 months ago

I’d agree with him IF it was a blanket 20 mph. It’s not. Don’t the Tories love their comfort blankets. It’s a DEFAULT 20 mph limit. In other words it’s a 20 mph limit UNLESS there’s a good reason. Motorways, arterial roads, non-urban roads, roads where 40 mph or 30 mph are the County Council designated limits are the exceptions.
And the Tories, led by Andrew R Trump Davies know this full well

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
7 months ago

The latest instalment of government by gaslight.

Mike
Mike
7 months ago

He’s right , people will be constantly looking at the speed dial, others (delivery drivers, and people trying to get to work etc), will get impatient , bikes will be going faster as they are exempt from prosecution, there will be an increase of pollutants. The whole thing is madness, only people who agree are the virtue signalling

Iago
Iago
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike

All my work colleagues are still getting to work on time and I have noticed the villages are quieter, less road noise. I have to glance at the speedo no more than normal and am getting an average of 6mpg extra which suggests less pollution. Bycycles are not exempt from prosecution but just covered by different laws. I have even started cycling the 4 miles to work and I assure you the 20mph is hardly at risk of being exceeded as legal ebikes are restricted to 15.5mph and have to be peddled.

BigE
BigE
7 months ago

What annoys me is that Tory politicians seem to take unto themselves the right to criticise what is happening in what they dismissively refer to as ‘a ‘Labour-run’ Welsh Government. We are in a mess. For fifty out of the last seventy years, the UK has had a Tory Government. I cannot inject enough irony into the comment when I say ‘That went well.’ The Tories lie. It is in their nature. And if they lie often enough, it becomes accepted as a fact. In the last seven or eight years we have had some whoppers. People still believe the… Read more »

Pete
Pete
7 months ago

The problem with this type of lie is that when people see through it they start to question everything you say or said. Unless Sunak is announcing a general election tomorrow this stunt could cost the Tories dear.

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