Speed limits through motorway roadworks could be raised from 50mph to 60mph, following a series of safety trials.
The 50mph limits have become a common site as hundreds of miles of roads in England are converted to “smart motorways”. While the limits were put in place to protect road workers, drivers have been frustrated by long stretches of the lower limit, especially in areas where little or no work is taking place and in areas where the works are scheduled to run for years.
One of the longest stretches of 50mph zone is a 34-mile long portion of the M4, where work isn’t due to finish until 2022.
Now, the RAC has predicted that the limit could be changed following a series of trials by Highways England.
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No evidence of negative impact
A Highways England trial in 2018 found: “There was no indication that a 60mph speed limit through roadworks had a negative impact on the safety of road users, given the incident and breakdown data.”
Since then it has carried out broader trials over a 12-month period on the M1, M6 and M4, with a final report due next month.
If that report supports the previous findings, the limit through motorway roadworks could be raised to 60mph in some areas. In others, dynamic limits could be used depending on whether workers are present or not. Such a system is already in place between junctions 3 and 12 on the M4, with the limit raised from 50mph to 60mph at weekends and certain other times.
A Highways England spokesman said: “We understand people get frustrated with roadworks.
“That is why we have been carrying out these further trials to look at where we can increase the speed limit to 60mph in different types of roadworks and in different ways – such as 24/7, or when there is less activity on site, or on the side of the road furthest from road workers.”
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: “Drivers can only hope that all the years of works and reduced speed limits are worth it in terms of increased capacity. Worryingly though, drivers tell us they have serious concerns about how safe these motorways are.”
Steve Gooding,Director of the RAC Foundation, told the MailOnline: "Few things irritate motorists more than roadworks when there’s no sign of activity, or are as frustrating as seeing that the road ahead is clear but to be stuck at 50 miles per hour.
"Motorists might well ask whether every effort has been made to get road improvement schemes accelerated to take advantage of lockdown traffic volumes, and whether schemes are being managed in a way that minimises disruption."