The A13 – how to mess up a good road

Driving back into London and then onto home last night by the A13 I was reminded that this government has done something sensible in transport. The six lane highway from the M25 into the East end of London which they have completed is a good addition to our road network.
Properly run,it would be both safer and greener than the smaller roads it replaces or takes traffic from, allowing cars to cruise into London in top gear at optimal speeds for fuel efficiency, free from conflict with pedestrians.

Instead, the government has allowed its dislike of the car, van and lorry to colour its judgement on how to regulate the highway. A large section of the new road has a speed limit of 40 mph. Most drivers using the road think 50-60 is a safe speed. Unfortunately because there are several cameras along the route this means all too many drivers slow down abruptly for the cameras and accelerate away when they are past them. Some even indulge in high speed lane hopping, frustrated by the control and by the lower speeds of some of the other drivers resulting from the control. Doing a steady 40 mph I found myself in the slow lane watching the antics in the other lanes, using a lower gear than I would have liked to keep the speed down. That meant I also had to watch the higher fuel burn.

I am glad Paul Smith’s excellent research work showing our roads have got more dangerous as safety policy has concentrated on speed control is now receiving a wider airing. Judging by the driving standards last night on the A13 speed control is now a direct cause of worse driving and should cause even this government to think again. The A13 could be a greener and safer road, if only they would use common sense in choosing a speed limit. As Paul Smith points out, less than 1 in 20 of all accidents has speeding as a cause.


  1. Graham Smith
    November 11, 2007

    People not familiar with Paul Smith may find it helpful to read his letter starting “Dear Road User” on the website

  2. Bazman
    November 11, 2007

    Good points. As a motorcyclist.The amount of numb skulls on the roads is stupid. If I ever see you arguing with your bitch on the phone. I will drag you out of the car.

  3. Adrian Windisch
    November 12, 2007

    Paul Smith is wrong, speed cameras save lives. See

    It sounds like John wants a return to the Conservative road building program of the 90’s that lead to increased congestion. The answer is to improve public transport, and cycling facilities; that will take cars off the road. The policy was thought to have died in 1994, when a government committee concluded that what environmentalists had been saying for years was correct – building more roads encourages more traffic.

    Just look at the Newbury bypass, lots of money spent on what he may call a ‘green road’, but it encouraged traffic. See

    John you should drive at the legal speed of 40 mph withought the speeding up and slowing down near speed cameras, leave it in high gear and save fuel. Or better yet get the train.

    Reply: I did travel at 40mph but that means a lower gear and more fuel consumption. Be realistic – 86% of all miles travelled are travelled by car or van. Even buses need roads. It is often a green option to improve the road. Why do you think trains are green? Many of them are dirty old diesel engines of a kind we wouldn’t allow on the roads.

  4. Adrian Windisch
    November 13, 2007

    I think public transport is green because it produces less emissions. Instead of spending the money on yet more roads, invest in more efficient train engines, get traffic off the road. We dont have enough land to build all the roads you want,

    Do you have proof that you consume more fuel at 40 than at 50/60? It depends on your car/style of driving/tyre pressure etc, but in a high gear at 40 isn’t so bad. Perhaps all motorways/roads should have a max speed of 55 to conserve fuel, as happened in the USA after the oil crisis in the 70s.

    Reply: My car tells me how much fuel it is using as I drive. I cannot drive at under 40mph in top gear, so yes it does use more fuel. Why are you so against personal flexible transport, and do you not appreciate buses and coaches, lorries and vans needs roads as well as cars? Trains are often dirtier than cars – trains onyl work as greener methods of travel when they are full or nearly full and when it is easy to get to and from the station.

  5. Bazman
    November 14, 2007

    The only way to lessen the impact of the car is to improve public transport in particular the trains, but the car is going to be here for a long time in the future in one form or another and is going to need roads. New roads. It was easy and short sighted for the Conservatives to stop building any
    Europe has a far bigger road bulding plan and who has not been amazed by the German Autobahn with its billiard flat surface and bumper to bumper Bmw's Mercedes etc on their 155 mph speed limiters.

  6. Adrian Windisch
    November 14, 2007

    Perhaps you have the wrong car, most cars will do 40 in top on a flat road in my experience. I’m against cars as they are the problem, polluting the air, and there are so many that average speeds decrease over the years. Supporting public transport will reduce pollution and congestion. Freight should also be encouraged to use trains, again to reduce pollution and congestion. Can you prove ‘trains are dirtier than cars?’, that isn’t what I’ve read.

    Most people use cars as they feel they have to, public transport is so bad and expensive in this country. Improving it, will reduce congestion. Building more roads has been proved not to work, and where will room be found to do it? Compulsory purchase of peoples homes will not be popular.

    Reply: name a car where travelling at 39mph optimises fuel use. Supporting public transport may not cut pollution or CO2 output, as all vehicles pollute and generate CO2 at some or all stages of their life cycle. You need to look at the emissions on the whole journey, not just the bit that people can do by train. Few people live at a station one end of the journey and work at a station the other end.

  7. Gazza
    December 7, 2008

    I have to agree, the A13 is a mess and the 40mph limit is indeed too low. I have sat in a flow of traffic doing 50-60 almost every day for years, and have not had an accident. The fact that a great many people feel they can safely exceed it is testament the limit being too low. I’d imagine that, should a professional road traffic engineer investigate this limit, he’d come up with a limit nearer to the 85th percentile, which I’d imagine to be 50mph upwards.
    Unfortunately these days limits are set to conform to political idealism, rather than reality.

    Refreshing to find that someone in Parliament is not a speed limit Fascist!

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