THINGS are looking a little grim for the populace in the dictatorship of Mark Drakeford’s Wales. The introduction of the 20mph speed limit on most roads which were formerly restricted to 30mph is beginning to awaken people to the stark reality of Welsh Labour’s seemingly eternal stranglehold on them.
The Welsh Government’s claim that the limit has been lowered for reasons of safety is at best disingenuous. Before the BBC announced that this would be forthcoming (under the news category of ‘climate change’, interestingly), I had written about this two months earlier in May 2022 here on TCW, since it was outlined in the Future Wales 2040 report of 2021.
One only has to read the 90 pages of the Transport Strategy ‘Llwybr Newydd’ to see that in terms of road transport, the Welsh Government are seeking a ‘modal shift’ away from private car use and reducing the need to travel. My analysis of this can be read here. It includes the rationale that ‘we need to act now to build upon the opportunity created by Covid-19 to think differently about how we work and where we work’.
Additionally, the Beaufort Research survey upon which figures were quoted in a leaflet sent to all homes in Wales makes interesting reading. It estimates that each year six to ten lives will be saved and 1,000 to 1,200 fewer casualties will occur. A mere 1,002 ‘adults over 16’ were interviewed (out of a population of more than 3million) and of the ‘spontaneous concerns’ given regarding road safety, potholes were the number one concern. Incidentally, this website discussing preventable deaths in cyclists in England and Wales states that ‘it is accepted that potholes are more dangerous to pedestrians than cars’.
The research summary states that 80 per cent of respondents were in favour of speed reduction in residential communities. Most people would consider these to be areas primarily for housing, such as housing estates, rather than a default speed reduction, with exceptions. And who would argue against a lowering of speed on their doorstep?
Interestingly, the survey began with questions about TROs or Traffic Regulation Orders. These are legal documents that restrict or prohibit the use of the highway network in line with the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and can refer to speed limits, on street parking restrictions, bus lanes etc. They can be temporary or permanent. One example of a permanent TRO in England and Wales (outside London) could be for the purpose of preserving local air quality.
In 2020 the final report of the Welsh 20mph Task Force Group in its recommendations (number 3) stated that ‘Welsh Government should undertake a review of the relevant legislation to identify how the Traffic Regulation Order process in Wales can be simplified’. Why? Does this suggest that considerably more changes will be needed to be implemented?
It also states (on page 38) that:
‘The following assumptions and criteria were applied in the demonstration draft, but can be amended easily in the future:
• Roads with existing speed limits of 40mph and above are assumed to remain at their existing speed limit.’
Thanks to a proactive TCW reader in North Wales, I received an email last week which gives cause for concern. This resident of Wrexham had emailed his local authority to ask how the 20mph zones would affect the community and had received a reply with this curious sentence towards the end: ‘Changes will be monitored over the 12 months following the roll-out on 17th September 2023. Over the next 12-18 months, further Welsh Government guidance is being provided, to enable further speed changes to be reviewed, eg for 40mph, 50mph and National Speed Limit Roads.’
In addition, the reader sent a copy of a September 12 letter from Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters to Ken Skates (Member of the Senedd for Clwyd South) quoting road casualty figures for 2022, defending the speed limit reduction. It states: ‘Young people aged 16-24 are disproportionately likely to be casualties in road collisions’. How many of these involve alcohol, recreational drugs – drug deaths in Wales are at their highest ever levels – and being distracted by mobile phones? Is this even being looked at?
The PubMed paper cited in the Welsh Government’s leaflet links in ‘air pollution’ along with ‘traffic’. As well as being the first UK nation to lower the default speed limit, Wales is the first nation to introduce a ‘National Soundscapes Strategy’ with its Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill 2023. The strategy must include policies for assessing and reducing levels of noise pollution. On its consultation page it mentions among other things ‘transportation sources’ of human activities which cause noise. Vehicle idling is another future target outlined. Presumably this will eventually be tied in with speed in the looming modal shift required from citizens of Wales.
As a child growing up in Wales, I recall the first line learnt in English of our national anthem, ‘Oh land of my fathers, the land of the free’. How bitterly ironic this feels in 2023.