Plans to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph could be revived by ministers, but campaigners say such a move would result in more road traffic accidents.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond said the decision to shelve the idea – first mooted in 2011 by the then transport secretary Philip Hammond – could be overturned, although he admitted the Government is still divided on the issue.
Public polls have suggested a 10mph increase in the maximum speed would be extremely popular among motorists and Mr Hammond said he recognised that a lot already drive at the higher speed anyway.
But campaigners said it would lead to another 25 deaths and 100 serious
injuries on the roads each year and cost society an extra £1 billion in fuel, health and other costs.
The move could also see an increase in compensation claims made on behalf of injured road users.
Not a priority
Current Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin put the project on the backburner this summer amid reports that it was felt the policy would not appeal to female voters.
Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Hammond said he could “only guess” why the plan was dropped.
“Mr (Philip) Hammond is a great supporter of 80 miles per hour. He thinks it’s the right thing to do,” he said in response to a question from an activist.
“That’s not a universal view among my colleagues and at the moment, because there are a huge number of other things on, we have not stopped work on it but it’s not a priority.
“Given that a lot of people travel at 80 miles per hour and we could enforce 80 miles per hour, at some stage we will want to come back and look at it.”
When asked if he ever drove at that speed himself, he laughed and paused for some time before moving on to the next question.
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