Chris Bryant MP on Wales’ 20mph speed limit
People in Wales feel “ignored” by the Welsh Government’s decision to continue with its new 20mph legislation, Express.co.uk has been told.
It comes as First Minister Mark Drakeford announced his resignation after five years in the job, setting up the next three months for leadership hopefuls to pitch their bid. Though Mr Drakeford has implemented a number of successful policies in Wales, he will be most remembered for his outgoing decision to reduce the speed limit on most roads in the country to 20mph.
Sold as a way to save lives, many people have hit out at the law and say it is affecting their day-to-day lives in ways that the Welsh government did not consider.
Express.co.uk spoke to several people who said they had encountered problems with the new rule and politicians in the Senedd, including allies of Welsh Labour, who raised concerns about its efficacy.
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Will Martin, a 22-year-old warehouse assistant in Wrexham, said he has faced troubles with his work and safety because of the new limit.
It has, he noted, meant that deliveries can often take longer to arrive than before, which has led to shorter working days.
“A lot more people have started to tailgate as well,” he said. “And I think drivers are taking more risks, pulling out where there isn’t necessarily the space, and I believe pedestrians have also started to take more risks by stepping into the road on the assumption that cars are now going 20mph.”
The legislation also means that some stretches of roads can change speed limits multiple times in just a few miles, and covers roads entirely unsuitable for 20mph.
Mr Martin explained: “There’s a road near me which straddles the border and it’s very steep. It’s gone down to 20mph and sometimes, when people head onto that road and try to go down into 20mph, their car can’t handle it.
“Once they go into first gear they’re slowing even below 20mph, the car is really struggling, you’re wasting all that fuel and the change of speed is very sudden.
“The Welsh Government isn’t listening to things like this, it’s stupid, and they’re continuing to push it and ignore us.”
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Michael Enea, a 50-year-old from Newport who tackles issues across Wales in his The Pointy Finger blog, set out on a journey in the early days of the legislation coming into force.
Driving from Caerleon to Cwmbran is usually an easy journey that takes just 15 minutes, but when Mr Enea set out it took him more than 20 minutes and saw him encounter his first instance of “road rage” from other drivers.
“There are three separate 20mph zones along that journey now,” he said, “and you now have to shift between 30mph and 20mph then up to 40mph and back to 20mph, up again to 40mph then back down to 20mph in the space of about five miles.
“It’s just ridiculous. You can see people on the road getting extremely frustrated, and I actually experienced my first bout of road rage from another driver who tailgated me.”
Mr Enea works for a brewery and said the deliveries of beer trays to pubs, clubs, social clubs and restaurants across the region has been significantly affected.
He explained: “In the morning, the lorry might do 10 drops, but of course, if you’ve got to crawl along at 20mph on certain lengthy roads, the time you have to get to all of those places is cut down, so you might only be able to deliver to nine pubs. There will be economic fallout from that.”
It hasn’t only affected delivery services, as already overstretched public buses have said they are considering cutting some routes because they can no longer keep up with timetabling.
Arriva Buses Wales said the new limit had led to an “impact on punctuality”, and was as a result undertaking a “large-scale review of the network” and was “discussing the implications”.
Similarly, Wales’ fire service chief, Stuart Millington, has said that some response times will be affected by the new limit, as those using their own cars to get to stations during a call-out would be impacted.
“In terms of the 20mph speed limit, that’s a complex subject in its own right with lots of opinion and debate that we are already aware of,” he said.
“We did provide a consultation response in relation to the 20mph response, and it was debated, and we provide information on what that would mean for reduced response times for on-call firefighters.”
The issue of air pollution has also arisen, with one study carried out by science chiefs at Newport County Council suggesting that the legislation could contribute to an increase in air pollution.
Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, told Express.co.uk that his party believes it is a “good thing” to have 20mph roads outside sensitive areas like schools and hospitals, “but that to bring it in as a blanket measure when the indicators clearly show there is a big economic hit is wrong”.
“It’s a lose-lose situation,” he said. “The Welsh government should have their eye on bigger priorities such as getting waiting times down in the NHS, improving educational standards, and improving the overall performance of the economy.
“We have a clear commitment that if we were to form a government in Wales at the next Senedd election in 2026, we will rescind the legislation that has the blanket policy at its heart.”
Even those who work with Welsh Labour have questioned the blanket approach taken.
Mr ap Iorwerth, the new leader of Plaid Cymru, said the government hadn’t listened to his party’s concerns, telling Express.co.uk: “The legislation isn’t bad, and there are exemptions, hence why many 30mph roads haven’t changed.”
However, he added: “But in the implementation and the failure to make sure there’s consistency in how things have been around Wales, so you do have examples where the speed limit is totally unreasonable now, where it becomes a problem.
“Weeks ago, we put forward a motion to the Senedd calling for a review of where the 20mph isn’t reasonable in its practice — but we still haven’t seen the government respond to that call.”
While the policy doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, growing anger could see the Senedd debate it yet.
Almost half a million people, some 16 percent of Wales’ population, have signed a record-breaking petition calling for the Senedd to “rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law”.
A counter-petition in support of the legislation has garnered just 5,000 signatures.
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