Last week Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced that the Government is to consult on raising the national speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 mph. The Government plans to launch a full public consultation on the issue later this year with a view to implementing any changes in early 2013.
Mr Hammond commented:
"I want to make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago. While we must ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world, we must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times."
Now this statement is sure to create significant public debate and has already generated comments of concern from road safety organisations.
As we are so closely associated with the motor vehicle trade we are aware of the advancements in vehicle technology that would lead one to consider an increase in speed limit to be a reasonable option. However we are amazed at the fact that this idea has been suggested whilst the Government is also considering extending intervals between MOT tests. As we have previously reported, they are considering extending the time at which a car requires its first test to four years and then it will only require re-testing every two years. This compares with three years and one year respectively on the current system. We know that modern vehicles and roads can cope with higher speeds but what of the upkeep of these vehicles?
If you think about it, what the Government is saying is that they are prepared to let vehicles drive faster but plan not to check for tyre or brake wear until a vehicle is four years old, and then they will not check again for another two years! Surely this is madness. The MOT test provides an essential safety check of vehicles because, despite the fact that cars are well-built these days, tyres and brakes still wear, and headlamps get out of alignment. We supply brake testing equipment to MOT stations and have to follow strict procedures to ensure that they are calibrated correctly to give accurate test results. The brake tester measures a vehicle's braking efficiency - ie. how well the brakes will slow or stop a vehicle. If an increase in motorway speed limit makes sense but they wish to "ensure that our roads remain among the safest in the world" then surely the Government must abandon the idea of extending the MOT testing frequency.