Default 20mph speed limit to have 'minimal impact' on journey times, says Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has published a report which claims reducing the limit from 30mph to 20mph has minimal impact on journey times.

Lowering the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on some of Wales' roads will have a minimal impact on journey times, according to a new Welsh Government report.

The report has been published six months before the 20mph speed limit becomes the default on certain roads across the country.

The new limit will be in place on what is called 'restricted' roads, which includes those where streetlights are placed no more than 200 yards apart and in residential and built-up areas with high pedestrian activity.

Eight trial areas have been chosen to determine how best to undertake the 20mph implementation across Wales and to set up long term monitoring for the change.

When the new limit comes into force on 17 September, Wales will become the first UK nation to introduce a lower speed limit following European countries, such as Spain, where 30km/h (18.5mph) is already in place.

The Welsh Government says the interim monitoring report found that, on average, motorists are already driving 3mph slower.

Substantial behaviour change has been observed in St Brides Major and St Dogmaels (two of the first phase areas to be introduced) where the number of people driving at or below 24mph has increased from 23% to 45% and from 54% to 84% respectively.

The Welsh Government says findings from other 20mph implementations in the UK show even small reductions in average speeds where people live and work can result in reduced collisions and serious injury.

Data from the report has also shown that reducing the speed limit has led to more children walking, cycling, and riding a scooter to school.

The report says areas where the limit has been reduced to 20mph has seen more children walking to school. Credit: PA

Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “This latest data is already showing the benefits we can expect to see across Wales thanks to the bold move we are taking to lower the default speed limits later this year.

"Decisions like this can be unpopular and we know that change is never easy, however, evidence from around the world is clear – reducing speed limits save lives. We have made progress on reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads over the 21 years of devolution, but we still need to do more to make the communities we work and live in safer.

"A reduction to 20mph on our residential and other busy pedestrian urban roads has to be the way forward.”

The move to lowering the default speed has been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives for costing the economy "£4.5bn". The party believes while 20mph may be appropriate for certain areas, "a blanket speed limit" approach is "anti-driver, anti-business and anti-growth".

Research conducted by the Transport Research Institute (TRI) at Edinburgh Napier University, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, estimates a new default 20mph speed limit on residential roads across Wales will save around £100m in the first year alone.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...