Road safety charity Brake has spoken out against government proposals to trial 80mph speed limits on some sections of motorways announced this week as part of David Cameron's strategy to address "decades-long degradation" of the country's infrastructure.

The new speed limit was just one of the proposals the Prime Minister put forward in a speech to the City aimed at encouraging large-scale private investment in the road network.

Such investment is likely to lead to the creation of private roads with toll lanes on motorways one of the ideas reportedly being considered as part of a "road revolution" that the Prime Minister sees as essential to future economic growth.

"The truth is, we are falling behind [on road infrastructure]. Falling behind our competitors. And falling behind the great, world-beating, pioneering tradition set by those who came before us," he said.

However, Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend has accused the government of "gambling with people's lives" particularly in regards of the proposal to run variable motorway speed limits on parts of the M25, M1, M6, M42 and M20.

According to recent Department for Transport figures, nearly half of UK motorists already flout the 70mph speed limit and with police guidelines suggesting a "10 per cent plus 2mph", Road Minister Mike Penning says a higher limit will actually reduce average speeds on motorways.

"I hope the public are listening to me, because average speed cameras, especially on managed motorways, are ridiculously accurate," he said.

"The argument, which will be in the public consultation, is what we enforce over 80mph. The answer will be that 80mph will be the speed limit, and not, as we interpret it today, perhaps 90mph."

Yet Townsend has suggested that more research needs to be undertaken before the trial is launched on UK roads.

"There has been no research into the safety of this trial, but there is a mountain of evidence that higher speeds result in more needless and violent crashes and casualties," she said.

"It is hard to see the logic behind this trial when the potential benefits of 80mph limits are so questionable. The government should instead look at how it can reduce costly and devastating crashes, and reduce congestion, through more variable speed limits and other measures, without negating the safety benefits by increasing the upper limit."

Changes to transport infrastructure will form a key part of today's budget which you can follow with @fire_magazine and @ambulance_news on Twitter with #budget

Posted 21/03/2012 by