The speed limit through roadworks on England’s motorways has been raised by 10mph in the wake of complaints from frustrated motorists.
Highways England, which is responsible for maintaining England’s major roads, announced that following a series of trials the standard limit through works areas will increase from 50mph to 60mph.
The move comes in response to feedback from drivers who said they were frustrated at not being able to go faster. The 50mph limits have become an increasingly common sight around the motorway network as huge stretches are converted into so-called smart motorways. In some areas the work and lower limits cover dozens of miles and are due to remain in place for years.
Following complaints from drivers Highways England conducted a series of trials on different sections of motorway and concluded that raising the speed limit had no impact on safety through road works.
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It also found more drivers stuck to the 60mph limit than the 50mph limit.
Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said: “All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks. They have shorter journey times and feel safe.
“Road users understand that roadworks are necessary, but they are frustrated by them. So testing 60mph has been about challenging the norm while ensuring the safety of our people working out there and those using our roads.
“We have a huge programme of work planned, so being able to use 60mph where safe will continue to improve everybody’s experience of our roads.”
The trials on eight sections of the M1, M4 and M6 found that in total drivers saved almost 3,780 hours travelling time per day due to the increased speed limits.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, welcomed the change. He said: "We know road users want speed limits in roadworks to be no lower than necessary to maintain safety – so 60mph in roadworks wherever it is safe to do it is a welcome step."
AA president Edmund King welcomed the move but suggested roadwork lengths should be restricted to 10 miles where possible.
He said: "Sticking at 50mph often leads to other drivers tailgating in order to try to force vehicles to pull over.
"The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways or motorways is also 60mph, so sometimes this leads to tailgating in 50mph limits.
"Plus we have very long stretches of roadworks such as the 32 miles being converted to smart motorway on the M4 between junctions 3 and 12, where 60mph would seem much more appropriate."