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GO-AHEAD FOR MORE FREEDOM ON SPEED LIMITS

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Councils are to be given unrestricted powers to impose 20mph speed limits next month as part of a government crackd...
Councils are to be given unrestricted powers to impose 20mph speed limits next month as part of a government crackdown on speeding, reports The Daily Telegraph (p5).

Ministers are also likely to reject calls from motoring organisations to raise the maximum speed limit on motorways to 80mph.

The moves are part of a wide-ranging road-safety review by the government aimed at reducing accidents, which cause 3,500 deaths every year.

Regulations to be introduced into parliament in the next few weeks will relax the rules that oblige councils to apply to the secretary of state for permission every time they want to vary urban speed limits.

About 350 'home zones' with 20mph speed limits have been set up in towns and cities, chiefly in residential areas or around schools, and ministers are anxious to encourage the trend.

In a seperate development, the treasury has indicated for the first time that it is sympathetic to demands within Whitehall to re-invest some of the proceeds from speeding fines directly into expenditure on roads.

The DETR is negotiating for the return of about 5% of the extra revenue generated by roadside speed cameras.

Meanwhile, The Financial Times (p22) reports that the Local Government Association is one of the signatories of a letter to the government urging the government to speed the introduction of legislation to reform the transport system.

The letter to Tony Blair, which also has the backing of the AA, the RAC, the Freight Transport Association, Transport 2000 and the Railway Forum, calls for a comprehensive transport bill, including all the main proposals from July's transport white paper to be included in the next session of parliament.

The paper also reports that John Prescott, the environment secretary, will today offer the prospect of lorry priority lanes on key routes, reports The Financial Times (p22).

As part of a peace offering to the haulage industry, he will also say that the government is considering raising the maximum weight for lorries from 41 tonnes to 44 tonnes.

But he will tell the Freight Transport Association that there will be no retreat on the recent increase in fuel duties, which sparked protests across the country.

Mr Prescott will urge hauliers to save on fuel by investing in more efficient lorries and to look at ways of ensuring trucks are full on outward and return journeys.

Lorry priority lanes are under consideration and would be set up on strategic routes suffering regular congestion. The lanes would also be used by coaches.

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