A new 20mph default speed limit in communities across Wales could save £100m as deaths and injuries are reduced, according to new research, but it will cost £4.5Billion to implement.
New research showing a reduction in deaths and injuries as traffic slows down is being published yesterday longside new survey results showing continued public support for the national roll out of the lower 20mph speed limit next year – a UK first. But opposition AMs say the decision should be left to local authorities with better knowledge of their areas than implementation of a Wales-wide restriction.
The Welsh Government will introduce a default 20mph speed limit on restricted roads across Wales in September 2023. Restricted roads include those with street-lights and are usually located in residential and built-up areas with high pedestrian activity.
The new research, conducted by the Transport Research Institute (TRI) at Edinburgh Napier University, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, estimates a new default 20mph speed limit on residential roads across Wales will save around £100m in the first year alone.
The estimated cost saving is the direct result of fewer deaths and injuries.
The new 20mph default speed limit is estimated to save more than 100 lives over a decade and 14,000 casualties in total could be avoided.
A new independent public attitude survey, conducted by Beaufort Research on behalf of the Welsh Government, shows the majority of respondents support a new lower speed limit.
Almost two-thirds of people surveyed said they would support a 20mph speed limit where they lived and 62% said they wanted everyone to slow down on the roads.
When asked about safety, 64% of people said that 20mph speed limits “makes it safer for pedestrians”; 57% agreed that 20mph means “fewer serious collisions on the roads” and almost half (47%) thought 20mph would make it safer for cyclists.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters said, “The evidence from around the world is very clear – reducing speed limits reduces collisions and saves lives.
“Slower speeds also create a safer and more welcoming environment, giving people the confidence to walk and cycle more, which will help to improve our health and wellbeing and help to improve the environment.
“This new research shows the savings in terms of reductions in people being hurt or killed but the benefits of 20mph stretch much further than casualty savings alone. The report suggests the lower speed limit will help encourage physical activity and in turn reduce obesity, stress and anxiety.
“As with any change we know it will take time for people to adapt. But I’m pleased to see the early indications show a majority of people are in favour of 20mph, and I am confident that if we all work together, we can make the necessary changes that will benefit us now and in the future.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS said, “Introducing 20mph speed limits should be decided by local councils and for places such as outside of schools and playgrounds. The research is far from conclusive with studies having shown that 20mph limits could have a detrimental impact on issues such as public transport as the tight timetable that many buses run on could be affected.
“Labour have already admitted that this policy will come at an astonishing cost of £4.5bn to the Welsh economy, proving they are doing everything possible to stunt growth in Wales.
“Labour ministers need to stop imposing dogmatic and restrictive measures on road users in Wales and focus on making sure Wales has a public transport system fit for the 21st century.”