Blog: Simon WarburtonNeed for speed

Simon Warburton | 30 September 2011

Call me a cynic but the UK government's proposal to raise the motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph, smacks of political opportunism coming as it does, days before the majority Conservative party's conference in Manchester next week.

There have been a raft of mysterious feel-good propositions emanating from Tory Central Office or whatever it is they're calling HQ these days - in a bid to lighten us Brits' mood as we contemplate the latest economic meltdown scenario over the cornflakes.

Rubbish collection back to a weekly timetable, a possible easing of painfully deep defence cuts at some unspecified later date and now a potential revision of speed limits.

On my shortish journey to work I spend about 10min on a motorway - after having been routinely overtaken on the slip road leading up to it - (what is going through people's heads there? - I'd venture not much) and although you have your usual madmen aiming to break 100mph, pretty much everyone is running at around 80-85mph if not less.

The argument goes that a law almost universally ignored is not a just law, but the usual band of eco-warriors and various vested interests have thrown up their hands in horror at the thought of an extra 10mph.

Look at Spain they cry and indeed, earlier this year, Spain had a handbrake turn and reduced its limits to 68mph in a bid to save fuel, although some wags noted: "What next - will they make us go to bed earlier to save electricity?"

A new limit of 80mph will simply mean motorists driving regularly at 90mph maintain those opposed to an increase, but anecdotal evidence suggests that in these straitened times - and with petrol in the UK retailing at around £1.35 per litre - people are actually voluntarily easing off the accelerator.

After the tub-thumping speeches and the "let's get Britain moving rhetoric" of next week - the Conservatives are equalled in their sloganeering by the Liberals and Labour just for balance by the way - it will be interesting to see how concrete this measure really is.

If the UK government really is on the side of the motorist, it might be better to channel its energy into ensuring we're not fleeced at the pumps rather than adding 10mph to the speed limit.


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