Report on where Welsh 20mph roads should go back to 30mph and part-time and 'seasonal' limits

20mph signs could start being replaced from September
-Credit: (Image: Rob Browne/WalesOnline)


A final report has been released on the review of 20mph exception roads in Wales. The default 20mph speed limit was introduced on most formerly 30mph roads last September - sparking a huge backlash.

A review - led by transport consultant Phil Jones - was initially launched by former transport minister Lee Waters and the new transport secretary Ken Skates announced an overhaul of the guidance around the 20mph limit in Welsh communities in March.

This is expected to see a significant increase in the number of 'exception' roads - routes that will become 30mph. The number in Welsh counties has varied wildly - for example there are 85 exception roads in Gwynedd and just six in Denbighshire.

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Welsh Government now wants a more consistent approach and will issue new guidance for local authorities so that potentially widespread changes can be made.

A report has now been released by a review group on what could be included in that guidance. This follows a consultation with councils, business and transport groups, road safety organisations and motoring associations.

The report states that highway authorities have already identified some roads that they will reassess once updated guidance has been published.

The report said: "This is only a small number of roads, because it is generally accepted that 20mph is the appropriate speed on most C (roads for local traffic like those on housing estates) and unclassified roads, although local circumstances may vary. There is therefore no need to reassess all roads."

As well issuing guidance over what type of roads should be considered for change it also flags other potential considerations. This includes 'seasonal' speed limits that could apply at certain times of the year and part-time limits, which could be used around schools. Seasonal limits were raised by two of the consultees.

Where they expect the changes to be made:

  • We would expect most 30mph exceptions to be or to be made on main/strategic roads outside city/town/village centres or high streets, outside other high-density areas and away from other places that attract frequent pedestrian and/or cyclist trips (unless they are segregated and protected from motor traffic)

  • Similarly, 30mph limits could be used on rural residential roads with no nearby facilities, roads with very low density of housing and/or very few houses altogether and on roads with houses only on one side and no need to cross the road (or if safe crossing points are available or made available).

  • 30mph limits could also be applied on strategic roads that are important bus corridors/strategic for road transport where evidence exists that journey times have increased significantly. Again, if pedestrians and/or cyclists are present on thoseroads, they should be segregated from motorised traffic.

  • 30mph limits could also be used on minor roads in industrial areas with little pedestrian and or cyclist traffic, or areas surrounded by open land.

The report added: "The purpose of the updated and clarified guidance will be to help highway authorities in striking the right balance between the disbenefits of higher speeds, e.g. increased casualties and severity of casualties, noise, perceived risk (potentially discouraging walking and cycling, which in turn leads to impacts on both physical and mental health); with the benefits of reduced travel times (leading to shorter journey times for travellers, potential economic savings and efficiency) on important movement routes."

The review team add that there should be a a set of recommended ‘common’ national criteria for councils but also additional ones that can be determined by the local authority, using local knowledge and feedback from drivers and communities.

The report also said there are other issues that should be covered in the updated guidance. These include the minimum length of speed limits used so that drivers don't face multiple changes over short distances.

The guidance should also cover buffer speed limit use, especially for approaches from higher speed limits to 20mph or where there is poor visibility. Road chiefs could also consider part-time limits outside say schools while potential seasonal limits could also be looked at.

A further issue to potentially be included in guidance is the maximum distance or time anyone needs to travel on 20mph roads until they reach a higher speed limit road, regardless of their point of departure and arrival.

Conservative transport spokeswoman Natasha Asghar said the report was "heavily stacked" to support the Welsh government's position. “This report is nothing more than a Welsh government smoke screen designed to strengthen their own position on 20mph."

Guidance will be published over the summer and drivers could to see changes made by September this year.

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