Highways England has announced it will increase the basic speed limit at which motorists can drive through roadworks from 50mph to 60mph.
The move comes after 'extensive and innovative research and trials' the government-owned company said, and has been in the works for some time after feedback from road users who said they were frustrated at not being able to go quicker.
In a statement, Highways England said trials had shown that 'as well as saving time, more people are sticking to the higher speed limit, so bringing safety benefits'.
It confirmed 'that where it is safe for road users and roadworkers, and where shown on road signs, vehicles can be driven at up to 60mph'.
A welcome move. Would also be good to restrict roadwork lengths where possible to ten miles maximum. https://t.co/yRySvHFFh8— Edmund King OBE (@AAPresident) July 26, 2020
Road projects that had trialled the 60mph during an eight or 10-week period over the last 18 months, 'were confident with how the increased speed limit was operating so rolled it out further within the roadworks or kept it on until the work completed'.
On the M1 between junctions 13 to 16 in Northamptonshire, the M6 between junctions 13 to 15 in Staffordshire, and on the M4 between junctions 3 to 12 near Reading, the 60mph is still in use as work continues to upgrade the road.
I disagree about increase speed limit through major roadworks. Increased risk to everyone as a result. It's about the length of roadworks works with no one working on them is biggest issue! @RACPress @TheRAC_UK @DominicBrowne1 @railandroad @CommonsTrans pic.twitter.com/nHrEyeprFE— Mr Pothole (@mrpotholeuk) July 26, 2020
The 60mph through roadworks trial looked at different ‘scenarios’ within roadworks on England’s strategic road network of motorways and major A roads, and was funded through Highways England’s ring-fenced innovation designated fund.
Research and road trials included 'various scenarios, road user, roadworker and stakeholder feedback and comprehensive risk assessments'.
The aim was to understand how drivers felt about the 60mph limit and whether it could be delivered safely for road users and road workers.
'Findings show using 60mph within roadworks on eight road schemes resulted in drivers saving on average (across all sites) up to almost 3,780 hours journey time each day. Although average speeds increased, more drivers stayed within the speed limit than when compared to driving at 50mph,' Highways England said.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, 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 are 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.'
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'We know road users want speed limits in roadworks to be no lower than necessary to maintain safety – so 60mph in roadworks wherever it is safe to do it is a welcome step.'
However some have criticised the move raising concerns about safety, escpecially for road workers, and questioning whether speed was the key issue as opposed to the length of roadworks.
Road maintenance and safety campaigner, Mr Pothole, Tweeted: 'I disagree about increase speed limit through major roadworks. Increased speed to everyone as a result. It's about the length of roadworks with no one working on them is biggest issue.'