Highways England has raised the national speed limit through motorway roadworks from 50mph to 60mph in an effort to cut journey times and improve safety.
Drivers will now be able to travel at the higher speed “where it is safe for road users and roadworkers and where shown on road signs”. The move comes in response to feedback from road users citing frustration at not being able to go quicker through roadworks and research that found fewer people exceed the higher limit.
During trials for the raised limit, Highways England found that allowing cars to travel at 60mph through eight different roadwork zones saved drivers an average of 3780 hours journey time per day.
Workforces at several sites, including stretches of the M1, M6 and M4, were satisfied with the results of the 8-10 week trials and chose to retain the 60mph limit following their completion.
Three new scenarios for the raised limit have been introduced: Permanent, which allows for 60mph driving at all times; Contraflow, which imposes a 60mph limit on stretches of road where main construction activity isn't taking place; and Dynamic, which lifts the limit from 50mph only on non-working days.
The news comes following the government’s recent vow to ‘accelerate’ investment in the UK’s transport infrastructure, pledging £1.7 billion to repairing local roads and fast-tracking £175 million of work on major road and rail networks.
It's expected that the new limit will have most effect in areas where work is ongoing to introduce smart motorways. A recent review of the controversial scheme has resulted in a series of new measures to improve safety, including the abolition of the dynamic hard shoulder concept and increasing the number of Highways England traffic officer patrols.
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're 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.”