WELSH ministers have agreed to “continuously review the impact” of the new residential 20mph speed limit, which came in nationwide across Wales today (Sunday, September 17), after a new poll said two-thirds of people oppose the move.
While the limits have existed in the likes of Monmouth and Abergavenny for some time as part of a pre-roll out pilot, 20mph is now the default speed across Wales for all restricted roads in built-up areas.
But many are unhappy about the new ‘go slow’, with an ITV Wales poll last week showing that 66% of residents don’t support it.
A fiery debate in the Senedd last week also saw Conservative opponents urge the Welsh Government to scrap the £34m scheme, with Tory transport spokesperson and South East Wales MS Natasha Asghar. Labelling it ‘ludicrous’.
UK Government Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt went even further, telling MPs on Friday it was “absolutely insane”.
The Tory Senedd motion was voted down by 38 votes to 15, but an amendment by Plaid calling on ministers to proactively encourage councils to regularly review the limit on local restricted roads was passed by the same margin.
A report commissioned by the Welsh Government on the economic impact of the slower speeds, has put the wider economic hit on the national economy over the next 30 years as up to £8.9bn - over a tenth of Wales’ current GDP - owing to slower delivery times and journeys.
But ministers claim the policy will make roads safer, leading to fewer deaths and injuries, and improve air quality, with a cost savings benefit of up to £2.5bn.
Natasha Asghar put forward the motion to scrap the scheme at the debate last Wednesday.
And while supporting a slower limit outside schools and hospitals, she said beforehand: “Labour’s blanket 20mph speed limits will have a detrimental impact on our economy, emergency services, and the livelihoods of the people in Wales.
“That’s why in the Senedd the Welsh Conservatives are forcing a final vote on the issue, telling the Labour Government to not go ahead with this ludicrous and dangerous policy.
“With the Labour Government’s own explanatory memorandum to their 20mph bill stating that 20mph speed limits will cost the economy up to a whopping £9bn, it’s time for Labour to focus on the people’s priorities, which they continue to neglect.
“We believe this money would be better spent on more doctors, more teachers, and more nurses.
“With public opinion so low and an ITV poll released yesterday highlighting that 66% of Wales are against this madcap policy, now is the time for Labour to put their extreme ideology and mass confusion to one side and this ill-thought out blanket 20mph speed limit project.”
But deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters said the Conservatives had been “against every progressive reform in this country” and have always been “on the wrong side of history”.
Labour MS Huw Irranca-Davies also claimed Welsh Conservative Send members were “now dying in a populist ditch to halt a policy designed to stop people dying or being injured on our roads”.
And Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said the Welsh Conservatives’ opposition was “ideological and politically-motivated”.
But calling for a continuous review of the scheme, which was backed, he raised concerns about the way the change has been rolled-out and called on ministers to “understand and reflect on people’s concerns”.
The 20mph limit was piloted in eight areas across Wales from 2021, which saw the lower limit introduced in Severnside, including Magor and Caldicot, and Abergavenny, followed earlier this year by Monmouth.
Abergavenny Conservative councillor Maureen Powell, whose Pen y Fal ward includes one of the main roads into the town centre that formed part of the trial area, said: “Most people I speak to seem happy enough with it and by the way people drive, they have seemed to get used to it.
“But my concern is the fact it has cost so much money to do it when we are desperate for money for doctors, nurses and teachers... I’m not against 20mph but the cost of doing it.”
The £34m cost covers signage and road markings, but councils are also having to pay for traffic orders for new speed limits including exemptions, where 30 mph will remain the limit, or buffer zones between different limits.
In Caldicot, Labour councillor Tony Easson said he had lobbied for the 20mph limit and faced a “big battle” for the town to be included in the trial.
“Implementation has been a bit haphazard,” he said, referring to revisions to the limit on the B4245 known as the Caldicot bypass, agreed in November last year, which saw the 30mph limit restored along certain sections.
“It’s the right decision to get as many roads down to 20mph as possible,” said the councillor but neither does he believe the lower limit is the cure all to road safety, including in his own area.
“The B4245, from Undy to Rogiet, needs a walking and cycle path so kids can ride along there.”