130km/h highway speed limits coming to the UK

In what appears to be a win for simple logic, the UK Department for Transport has proposed raising the motorway speed limits from 70mph (~112km/h) to 80mph (~129km/h).
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UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, someone we’d now happily welcome as honorary guest here in Australia, outlined his plans to make the speed limit change by 2013. As with most major changes, the proposal will first be put out for public consultation before it goes into affect.

The reason? The Transport department’s press release says:

“Vehicles have changed dramatically since the current national speed limit was set in 1965. Technological advances mean that cars are significantly safer then they were - contributing to a fall of more than 75% in the number of people killed on British roads since 1965. That is why the Government feels it is now time to look again at whether the speed limit set in 1965 is still appropriate.”

Car enthusiasts would surely feel a great sense of happiness when reading that paragraph. It’s contrary to the typical attitude taken by the state operated transport departments here in Australia, which continuously insist that speed cameras are the reason for the reduction in the road toll.

The UK Department for Transport is instead going to focus some of its efforts on drink driving and removing uninsured drivers from the road, a noble cause. According to research conducted in the UK, raising the motorway speed limit would give the country a much need economic boost, worth hundreds of millions of pounds per year from the time saved travelling.

It’s fair to point out that as it stands today, 49 per cent of all UK drivers already break the 110km/h speed limit anyway. According to the press release, raising the speed limit would help “millions of otherwise law-abiding motorists” be brought back inside the legal limit. Helping restore “the moral legitimacy of the system”.

"I want to make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago. While we must ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world, we must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times.” Philip Hammond said.

But wait, there’s more! Not only will the speed limit be raised to 130km/h, but truck speed limits will remain lower, essentially forcing them to remain in the slow lane at all times. A big round of applause for Mr Hammond (and maybe even some hugs).

Given the recent anti-government protests in the UK, this move may indeed be politically motivated to appease the masses. So, what do you think? Given the Gillard government’s declining popularity, perhaps a national motorway speed reform would win a few more votes? Certainly in our office!