Reduction in speeds shows attitudes to 20mph limits are 'beginning to change'

By John Mercury February 21, 2024

A reduction in average speeds on Welsh roads shows attitudes to the default 20mph speed limit are “beginning to change”, according to a government minister.

New analysis of the speeds of millions of vehicles, compiled by Transport for Wales, shows that average speeds in the country have reduced.

Average speeds have dropped from 28.9mph to 24.8mph, with the Welsh government saying the latest data shows they’re moving in the right direction.

The default speed limit in built-up areas was changed to 20mph in September last year.

The policy has proved controversial, with a petition opposing the move becoming the most-signed on the Senedd‘s website.

It comes after figures released last month showed over half of journeys in Wales broke the default speed limit.

“Behaviours and attitudes towards 20mph are beginning to change,” said Lee Waters, Wales’s deputy climate change minister.

“We’ve still got a way to go, but it’s encouraging to see that things are moving in the right direction.

“Every 1mph reduction in speed makes a real difference – so this is a real turning point.”

Ross Moorlock, chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said the data was “encouraging”.

“We hope that governments and local authorities across the UK will take Wales’s lead and adopt 20mph as the default speed on roads where people and vehicles mix,” he said.

The initial report by the government’s independent review team is also being published on Wednesday, looking at which roads might need to be changed back to a 30mph limit.

Local authorities have the ability to make certain roads exempt from the default limit.

Read more:
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Councillor Andrew Morgan, chair of the Welsh Local Government Association, said councils wanted to “ensure we have the right speeds on the right streets”.

“While there appears to be some roads where the speed limit isn’t right and there is a need for local authority review, we have heard from some councils that positive differences have been seen in the speed and safety of their streets, particularly among vulnerable people,” he added.

The Welsh Conservatives – the largest opposition group in the Senedd – said the data showed the default limit had been a “monumental waste of time and resources”.

Shadow transport minister, Natasha Asghar, said: “To sacrifice billions of pounds from the Welsh economy all for the sake of 4mph may satisfy Labour, but it is not a trade the Welsh Conservatives would be willing to make.”

The party has pledged to “scrap” the policy from its first day in office were it to win a majority at the next election.


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