When the Coalition came into government they swept away the M4 bus lane. They announced a consultation on an 80mph speed limit on motorways. Mr Hammond made the case for it. He pointed out that many motorists already travel above 70mph, and argued that it would be good for the economy if journeys could be faster when the motorway allowed such travel. An 80mph limit would be more in keeping with typical safe practice on a free flowing motorway and would help people get about their business. After all, the believers in trains are always wanting to go faster.
More recently the government has announced it is not about to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph. At least no-one can accuse it of being too willing to get into line with the EU on this, as France and Italy have a speed limit of 81mph and Germany has no upper limit on autobahns. Motoring organisations and businesses have been disappointed at the change of heart.
It came as a shock to learn last week that the Department of Transport is now consulting on going the other way, and imposing 60mph limits on certain stretches of motorway, starting with the M1. I was assured by one government source that the original press story was untrue, only to find that the Transport Department is launching a consultation on this very policy. Apparently some officials say that without these speed limit reductions the UK could be in violation of air quality directives from the EU, so there is an EU motivation beneath this change of tack.
I will be writing in response to the consultation. Your comments on it first would be interesting.