Highways Magazine – Wales review ‘could see more 20mph roads’

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The Welsh Government’s review of guidance on the default 20mph speed limit could see councils cut speeds on roads that still have a 30mph limit, a top road safety campaigner has said.

The devolved administration’s cabinet secretary for transport, Ken Skates, announced last month that revised guidance on exceptions to the default limit will be published in July, with councils expected to start detailed consultation on any changes they plan to make from September.

While Mr Skates told the Senedd that public and highway authorities would ultimately decide the degree of change, he had previously said 20mph limits were applied to many routes ‘that shouldn’t have been included’.

He added that changing the guidance ‘will enable councils to revert back those routes that are not appropriate’.

However, Rod King MBE (pictured), founder and campaign director at the 20’s Plenty campaign told Highways: ‘I suspect that the correction process may well uncover as many 30mph roads needing to be reduced to 20mph as 20mph roads being increased to 30mph.’

Mr King said councils ‘cannot ignore’ values built up by the Welsh Government around future generations, active travel, public health, community cohesion and liveability that exist in legal obligations to public bodies.

He said: ‘It was always expected that the national default 20mph limit and the exceptions introduced by local highway authorities would produce anomalies that would be required to be addressed.

‘Whilst a new Welsh transport minister may well bring a slightly different perspective and modus operandi of correcting these anomalies, the fundamental policy of a national 20mph urban/village default with exceptions only where justifiable will remain.’

He added: ‘The national default 20mph is an important step forward in aligning Wales practically with the values on road safety and community liveability which are becoming the global norm.

‘It will benefit a significant number of road users who are the mobility under-privileged in society. I am confident that the transport minister understands the 20mph benefits to the 500,000 children, the 300,000 households with no access to a car, the 600,000 concessionary travel pass holders and the 12,000 who won’t be injured as a result of the national 20mph default.’

Mr King suggested that there is a misconception around the Welsh Government’s policy of a national default limit of 20mph for restricted roads with evidence-based exceptions set by local authorities.

He said: ‘In fact, the power and responsibility for any HA to set a local speed limit that is different from the national limit comes not from Welsh legislation, but from the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984. 

‘However, this is overlaid with Welsh legislation such as the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales). All of these will require due diligence for public bodies considering changes that could impact on the safety and well-being of all sections of society protected by such legislation.’

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