Britain to raise motorway speeds to boost economy

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Britain's government is set to raise its motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph (112kmh to 128kmh), saying the first change of its kind in almost half a century would benefit the economy.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said Thursday that the current limit was "out of date" and that a consultation would be launched later this year with a view to introducing the new limit in 2013.

"Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology," Hammond said.

"Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times. So we will consult later this year on raising the limit to get Britain moving."

Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is desperately seeking to boost economic growth after bringing in tough austerity measures to tackle a record national deficit.

Hammond added in an interview with The Times newspaper on Friday that with many drivers in Britain routinely driving at 80mph the current law was undermining the notion of policing by consent.

"If 50 percent of the population are routinely breaking the law it's actually the law that needs looking at," he said.

The current limit was set in 1965.

Road safety groups and environmentalists criticised the plans.

"Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would not help the economy and would increase costs for drivers. It would also add to pollution and increase road casualties," said Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport.

© 2011 AFP

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