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Plans to raise motorway speed limit

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The Government is considering plans to raise motorway speed limits to 80mph in a bid to shorten journey times and boost productivity, transport secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond said that safety might no longer be the sole judging factor when setting speed limits, and proposed that gains to the economy from reduced journey times should also be considered.

He added: "We need to do this on a pretty rigorous cost-benefit basis. At the moment there are a clear set of criteria for making these decisions. Perhaps we ought to ask if we are using the right set of criteria."

There were 132 deaths on British motorways in 2009, the last year for which full figures are available.

A higher speed limit could mean that road injuries and vehicle damage get more serious due to the higher velocity - leading to a higher number of car insurance claims being made.

Since 1965, the maximum speed limit in Britain has been 70mph - a figure lower than most in continental Europe.

In France and Italy the maximum speed limit is 81mph. In Ireland, Spain and Portugal it is 75mph.

Mr Hammond, who drives a Jaguar XJ saloon, has also signalled he will address the issue of fuel prices in next month's Budget.

© Press Association 2011