Motorway roadworks speed limit: Why has speed limit been raised?

For many years England’s motorways have been subject to long stretches of roadworks, meaning the standard 70mph speed limit has been reduced to 50mph, causing frustration in drivers. The typical 50mph restriction where work is being carried out will rise to 60mph.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive, said: “All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks.

“They have shorter journey times and feel safe.

“Road users understand that roadworks are necessary, but they are frustrated by them.

“So testing 60mph has been about challenging the norm while ensuring the safety of our people working out there and those using our roads.

“We have a huge programme of work planned, so being able to use 60mph where safe will continue to improve everybody’s experience of our roads.”


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Not every set of roadworks will be subject to the change, so you should keep your eyes peeled when driving to make sure you are not breaking the law.

The change in policy does not mean limits will be increased at every set of roadworks straight away.

Depending on the road layout and the work being done, 40mph and 50mph restrictions will continue to be used in places.

Government-owned Highways England has tested increased speeds, including through roadworks between junctions 13 and 16 of the M1.

It found the journey time for the 24-mile route was reduced by an average of 68 seconds.

Why has the speed limit changed?

The Government has decided it is safe for those on the roads to drive at 60 mph for a number of reasons.

The Government-owned company responsible for motorways and major A roads in England made the decision after carrying out trials over the past 18 months which showed the safety of motorists and road workers can be maintained despite the 10mph increase.

It found that more drivers stay within the limit when it is 60mph, with average time savings ranging from eight percent to 14 percent at the eight sites tested.

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AA president Edmund King claimed driving at 60mph “is often safer than driving at 50mph”.

He said: “Sticking at 50mph often leads to other drivers tailgating in order to try to force vehicles to pull over.

“Plus we have very long stretches of roadworks such as the 32 miles being converted to smart motorway on the M4 between junctions 3 and 12, where 60mph would seem much more appropriate.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, described the introduction of 60mph limits as “a welcome step”.

He continued: “We know road users want speed limits in roadworks to be no lower than necessary to maintain safety.”

The safety of workers on the motorway is not thought to change when the speed limit goes up.

The 10mph increase was suggested in 2017. At the time, the Unite union said: “Sadly, in recent years there have been several deaths of motorway workers and these changes will make their work even more dangerous.

“Already motorists frequently drive into coned-off areas. At increased speeds, it will make such potentially lethal accidents even more common.”

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