Speed cameras could be installed on more of Wales’ roads to reduce pollution
Speed camera operator GoSafe could have its remit changed so that it can catch drivers who race through neighbourhoods with polluted air.
In June last year, the Welsh Government introduced 50mph limits to cut air pollution from major roads in Wales , but most drivers failed to cut their speed to 50mph.
The Government responded by placing “emissions reduction” notices beside the roads in the hope drivers would show consideration for people near the roads.
Compliance with the speed limit remains so poor that the Government is now talking to police and GoSafe about compelling drivers to comply – including deployment of average speed cameras which would operate round the clock.
GoSafe is currently authorised to use speed cameras only at sites with poor safety records or where residents are particularly concerned about the dangers of speeding traffic.
One motoring organisation said that GoSafe’s remit – and name – would need amending if GoSafe is to enforce speed limits for environmental reasons.
The 50mph limits were introduced last year on the M4 in Newport and near Port Talbot, the A470 in the Pontypridd area, the A483 in Wrexham and part of the A494 in Flintshire. The aim is to reduce the nitrogen dioxide breathed in by people in local homes, workplaces, schools and facilities.
Transport minister Ken Skates recently told the Senedd: “This is to reduce the poison that is being emitted and is being inhaled by human beings. This is a measure that is proven to work. Nitrogen dioxide levels must be reduced.”
The Government says data on the speed limits’ effects will not be available until September, but it has already decided to make the limits permanent. The first year’s data may prove inconclusive because so many vehicles exceeded the 50mph limits during the year.
Tim Shallcross, head of technical policy for IAM RoadSmart, said: “Reducing the speed limit to 50 in known areas where pollution is a problem will have an impact not only on nitrogen dioxide emissions but also on particulates from tyres and braking.
“Some people will respond to that. Some don’t realise the environmental significance or choose to ignore it. There ought to be some enforcement.
“Maybe people aren’t taking that [speed limit] seriously because the signs look like signs for roadworks and people can’t see any cones.”
He had noticed different attitudes to speed limits on the M4 around Port Talbot, where the air-quality 50mph limit through Baglan adjoins Port Talbot’s long-established 50mph limit, imposed for safety reasons.
“People know there are average speed cameras there [at Port Talbot]. As soon as they reach the western end, some people put their foot down and go. They take the view that if there isn’t a camera there, there isn’t a speed limit,” said Mr Shallcross, who lives in Powys.
He said GoSafe’s remit was currently focused on casualty reduction and would need amending for GoSafe to enforce limits for other reasons: “They would have to change their name, really.”
Changes would also be needed to education courses, which people caught speeding by relatively low margins can opt to take instead of being prosecuted.
“If you go on a speed awareness course, it’s all about the dangers of speeding – there’s nothing about speed limits in place to reduce pollution,” he said. “It raises a number of questions, for example: should you have a separate course on the environmental effects of breaking the speed limit?”
Referring to the air-quality speed limits, a government spokesman said: “Our officials are continuing discussions with the police and GoSafe about the most appropriate method of enforcement going forward, including average speed cameras to help ensure 24-hour-a-day compliance.
“Enforcement of the speed limit on the section of M4 between Junction 25 and Junction 26 in Newport, which is set via the variable speed limit, is undertaken via existing spot speed cameras.
“It is acknowledged that existing guidance, policy and the speed awareness course curriculum may need review and amendment, and this is included within the ongoing discussions.”
Widening GoSafe’s remit to encompass environmental speed limits could open the door to enforcement to reduce noise pollution from traffic in certain locations. Some Monmouthshire residents, for example, want the limit cut to 50mph on the A40 where the concrete surface and rubber expansion joints worsen tyre noise.