Sunak to curb 20mph zones in new pro-motorist agenda

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to block councils from introducing 20mph speed restrictions as he pushes forward with a ‘pro-motorist’ agenda ahead of next year’s general election. 

Sunak will announce his “plan for motorists” at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Monday, a plan which is set to include a pro-driver package to win the voting favour of motorists.

This will reportedly introduce limits on the power of local authorities to introduce 20mph zones and enforce yellow box junction rules, scale back low-traffic neighbourhood schemes and allow cars to drive in bus lanes for an increased number of hours per day.

A review into low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which aim to limit traffic levels and ‘rat-running’ in residential areas – through the use of bollards, temporary barriers, and reduced speed limits – was ordered over the summer after they drew criticism for pushing congestion onto other roads and hampered access granted to emergency vehicles. 

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “While we support the use of 20mph limits being used where they are needed most, implementing them in widespread fashion may unnecessarily lengthen journey times by slowing down traffic, and possibly even increase congestion.

“We need councils to strike the right balance between making our roads safer and ensuring the smooth flow of traffic, in all its forms. We need to see the detail of the PM’s plan to see whether what’s proposed will really help with that.”

The latest development comes just a week after Wales became the first UK country to introduce mandatory 20mph speed limits for restricted roads. A study commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) earlier found the majority of residents supported 20mph limits in residential areas due of claims that it reduced the number of accidents and casualties.

Wales lowers urban speed limits to 20mph

The move attracted criticism from both Welsh Conservatives, who said it was “anti-worker” and “anti-motorist”, and residents – with some of the new 20mph signs quickly vandalised. 

Transport for London (TfL) recently announced that the proportion of arterial routes limited to 20mph – commonly known as the Red Route network and carrying a third of the city’s traffic – will increase from 16% to 20% by the end of next year.

Sunak’s pro-car measures are expected to draw criticism after the introduction of the 2030 ICE ban was delayed to 2035, however he said that the government is still committed to the UK reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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