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Warnings against 20mph u-turn

23 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates

Emily Price

Supporters of Wales’ 20mph default speed limit have warned against a Welsh Government u-turn ahead of a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Transport later today.

Ken Skates is expected to make “targeted changes” to the controversial 20mph policy in the Senedd on Tuesday (April 23).

The £34m road regulation was introduced on restricted roads in Wales in September 2023.

It saw most roads in Wales that were 30mph switch to 20mph.

Councils have the power to make exemptions, but there has been criticism of the Welsh Government guidance which must be followed when deciding which roads remain at 30mph.

Some councils have been fairly bullish with their approach to road exceptions and have chosen to keep all main roads at 30mph.

However, fears have been raised among some councils that if a road were to be changed back to 30mph and there is a death on that road – a council could be legally liable.


Future Generations Commissioner, Derek Walker has warned against a u-turn on the policy.

He says that whilst improvements to the implementation of 20mph speed limits are needed, communities must remain at the heart of the policy.

He said: “Wales took a bold leap in joining other world nations and introducing the change in default speed limits to 20mph where people live, work, learn and play – a step in the right direction to shifting Cymru from car-dominated streets to ones that feel safe, walkable and friendly.

“While improvements to the implementation of the 20mph policy are needed, the well-being of our communities must remain at the heart of this policy.

“Research by Public Health Wales found nearly 70% of collisions in which children are injured take place on roads which have a 30mph limit.

“The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires policymakers to use preventative measures to protect well-being now and in the future and with a health crisis and one in five people without access to a vehicle, it’s vital that we have more walkable communities for a healthier and more equal Wales.

“Transport policy in Wales has made some real progress since the introduction of our world-leading well-being goals.  I would urge councils not to do a u-turn, to work with communities and ensure that when it comes to creating spaces that serve everyone in Wales, we don’t take any backward steps.”

A record breaking Senedd petition calling for for the new default speed limit to be reversed racked up almost half a million signatures following fierce public backlash.

But the Welsh Government says that cutting the limit to 20mph will protect lives and save the NHS in Wales £92m a year.

Rod King, campaign director of the group, ‘20’s Plenty for Us’ says any u-turn on the policy would be “fought with passion”.

He heads the not-for-profit organisation which campaigns for slower speed limits in residential areas across the UK.

Mr King said: “Feedback from our campaigners is that a u-turn would be a huge betrayal of Welsh Communities who are so benefitting from quieter roads and residential areas.

“This is particularly so in rural villages where noisy and dangerous traffic speeds have been curtailed. If the government is true to its word of involving local people, especially those living on any roads contemplated for change to a higher speed, then there will be very little support for an increase.

“No-one stands outside their house or local shops and says ‘I think it would be better if cars drove faster through here’.”


The Welsh Conservatives have warned that any u-turn will be merely “cosmetic”.

Leader of the Tory Senedd group, Andrew RT Davies said: “Labour’s 20mph speed limits are sadly here to stay.

“Any change to the guidance will be cosmetic, and cosmetic changes will not fool the Welsh public.

“Smoke and mirrors around guidance will not do. This policy needs to be scrapped in its entirety.”

Mr Skates is expected to make his announcement on 20mph and other transport priorities at around 5:45pm

He was put in charge of Wales’ transport in march following the election of Vaughan Gething as First Minister.

The minister behind the 20mph policy, Lee Waters, stepped down prior to Easter recess.

Wales Green Party leader, Anthony Slaughter says its “disappointing” that a backwards step is being considered.

He said: “The 20mph limit works and  makes our streets safer and more welcoming for all users. The data proves this.

“The campaign for default 20mph limits in urban and residential areas had cross party support across Wales at every stage, including significant support from elected Conservative representatives and the government should not be influenced by the current misleading and populist campaign against 20mph being driven by those with a desperate attention seeking agenda and an interest in stoking false ‘culture war’ divisions.

“Now is not the time for the Welsh government to back down. Our communities deserve better.”

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Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
29 days ago

‘Bold leap’? What rubbish. I am a Welsh Nationalist who wants Indy and prosperity, not the endless Labour failures eg in coal communities. Indy is not about banning fizzy drinks or smacking or driving at 30mph through Newport, Pembs, which noone does anyway because no sane driver would. None of this banning is ‘bold’. Getting Wales moving towards Indy would be bold, if you like.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
28 days ago

So you’re against the smacking ban? Perhaps you’d like to explain why it is still (in England) against the law to assault an adult but not to assault a child.

29 days ago

We STILL haven’t been told what Andrew Blanket Davies intends to replace the 20 mph limit. Plenty about what he opposes but NO DETAIL!

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
28 days ago

‘Wales took a bold leap in joining other world nations and introducing the change in default speed limits to 20 mph where people live, work, learn and play- a step in the right direction to shifting Cymru from car-dominated streets to ones that feel safe, walkable and friendly’. This paragraph clearly shows why people think it is a blanket 20 mph policy. Also what has 20 mph got to do with ‘shifting’, or is this an insidious attempt to make driving not pleasant and force people on to the wonderful readily available public transport? I hope this includes everyone especially… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
28 days ago

I hate the way it is constantly reported that it cost £34 million to implement this policy – as if that is a lot of money. It may seem like a lot to ‘normal’ people but in the context of the Welsh Government’s budget it isn’t. The Welsh Government’s budget for 2022-23 was £21 billion. £34 million (which was a one off cost) is 0.161905% of £21 billion. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a hell of a lot – to put it into context a new, average mid-sized hospital costs around £500 million. So £34 million is… Read more »

Matt Evans
Matt Evans
17 days ago

The rowback on this policy from WG is sacrificing the interests of children – those who stand to benefit the most from slower speeds on the roads – in order to pander to a bunch of shouty blokes (mostly) who either will have forgotten all about it in a few months’ time. Just look at local elections in London last week where less than a year ago ULEZ was supposedly going to bring down Sadiq Khan to the point that clown Starmer was openly criticising him – and yet no sign whatsoever of any discernable effect at all in the… Read more »

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