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September 30, 2011 / clayliesstill

80 mph

Philip Hammond, who has already done his level best to make the Local Sustainable Transport Fund as unsustainable as possible, has reached a new low of hypocrisy with the announcement to raise motorway speeds to 80 mph.

As many have already commented, this proposal would lead to substantial increases in collisions and injuries. The latter is self-evidently bad and in his comments, Hammond appears to agree – yet he is prepared to sacrifice lives on the altar of the economy. Separating collisions from injuries is important since the justification for Hammond’s move (other than the nakedly political pandering to the Clarkson brigade) is to reduce journey times. Yet collisions on motorways are a major source of congestion, with estimates ranging from 12%-33% of congestion caused by crashes

80 mph limits means 90 mph will become the default speed limit (police only prosecute at the speed limit + 10% + 2mph). This will lead to more crashes for two reasons: speed obviously is linked to crash risk because it gives the driver less time to react but it will also increase the speed differential between lorries (whose speed will remain at 56 mph-60 mph) and the cars that will be overtaking them or attempting to join or leave the motorway.

And then, of course, there are the carbon emissions. It is well established that the increase in aerodynamic drag is non-linear and thus higher speeds leads to a disproportionate increase in fuel use. Why would a government that (long ago) claimed it would be ‘the greenest ever’ be contemplating such a move? The answer is simple: more fuel use means more tax revenue – this is, in essence, a ‘speed’ stealth tax. Massively increasing fuel consumption on the motorways from witting motorists is therefore a sly policy to assist with deficit reduction.

ps. the Campaign for Better Transport has just published a report making this point.

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