It’s a brave local politician who proposes something that will potentially criminalize most of their voters (“Council chairman in call for 40mph limit on country roads” in last week’s Middy).
But when will county councillors learn that just reducing speed limits is not enough to improve safety on our dangerous rural roads?
Lower speed limits = longer journey times = more vehicles on the roads at any given moment = longer queues of slower moving vehicles = more congestion.
A 40mph speed limit alone will make it more difficult and dangerous for motorists exiting side roads at rural T-junctions, particularly during rush hour periods.
Therefore WSCC should also look at improving junction safety (e.g. mini-roundabouts, traffic lights etc.) to mitigate the undesirable side effects of a blanket reduced speed limit.More congestion and longer journey times = increased transport costs for both commuters and local businesses. Will local businesses raise their prices, reduce wages, lay off staff, or relocate to other regions with lower transport costs?
To prevent these undesirable consequences, WSCC should look in the long term to create a network of fast 60mph “expressways” linking Sussex towns to each other and to the national motorway/trunk-road network.
These expressways need not be brand new roads, but could be achieved with a series of localised road improvements applied to the existing road network (e.g. remove tight bends, bypass villages and hamlets, improve driveway-access safety for single, rural, roadside dwellings).
It’s ironic that at a time when central government is re-learning that improving the transport network will benefit the national economy, our county councillors propose to degrade or worsen our local transport network, seemingly oblivious to the resulting negative impacts on the local economy.
How to fund these improvements?
I suggest in the short term a network of average speed cameras.
They will pay for themselves hundredfold with millions of £’s raised in fines each month, with plenty of money left over to pay for the necessary junction improvements. In the longer term,
WSCC could issue highway bonds (popular in the USA) or make the expressways into toll roads.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Greens in Brighton fare at the next local elections.
Will they be rewarded or punished for implementing unpopular and widely ignored A-road 20mph speed limits? Could this be a future lesson for West Sussex county councillors?