Mark Drakeford hits back at Tories saying 20mph speed limit won't slow emergency services down

  • He addressed the upcoming policy in the first FMQ's since the summer break

The First Minister has said he is certain that emergency services will be able to adapt to more roads with 20mph speed limits.

From Sunday, most urban Welsh roads will see limits set at 20mph instead of 30mph.

It is proving to be a controversial policy, with a poll for ITV Wales suggesting that almost two-thirds of people are opposed to the change.

One area of concern is about the impact on emergency services.

It was raised in the Senedd today by the Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Andrew RT Davies said if an ambulance is driving with blue lights in a 20mph zone, it will be only be able to speed up to 40mph.

During this week’s First Minister’s Questions, he said that “the ambulance service, for example, have said that in their working plan and management tool ambulances can only travel at 20mph over the speed limit.

“So, whereas in a 30 they can do 60, if they're blue lighting it at the moment, they will be going down to forty.

He went onto say: "We've seen letters and correspondence from South Wales Police that there will potentially be a knock-on effect.

Andrew RT Davies said "there have been concerns expressed by those in the emergency services". Credit: PA Images

Mr Davies then asked: “What discussions have the Welsh Government had to change the working framework that the blue-light services will have to operate under, so that there will not be an unintended consequence of ambulances being delayed or emergency blue-light services delayed in getting to those vital call-outs that this policy could potentially affect?”

In response, Mark Drakeford said: “I don't think that those anxieties are shared by the services either. I think that those anxieties will not be borne out in practice."

The First Minister added: “All our blue-light services are used in Wales to dealing with 20mph, 30mph, 40mph, 50, 60, 70mph restrictions on different roads in different contexts.

"They manage that perfectly successfully; they will manage this in exactly the same way.”

  • Countdown to 20mph

In the face of criticism from the Opposition Leader, Mr Drakeford said the policy was “a manifesto commitment of my party.

"It's been in the programme for government ever since the new Senedd term began, and this Government will keep its promise to people in Wales to bring about this reform.”

But he also said that the Welsh Government will assess how it is working and with “independent evaluation of the impact of this policy."

He continued: “The prospective evaluation showed that it would save up to 10 years 10 lives every year and up to 20,000 accidents over a 10-year period, and that the NHS would save £92 million every year as a result of the reduced casualties from road traffic accidents that this policy will help to promote.

“We will have an independent evaluation of that, of course, and, just as we published the interim evaluation of the minimum unit pricing, we will put into the public domain the result of the evaluations that we will commission.”

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