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Speed limits up and down the United Kingdom could be set to change in the future, with restrictions set to be adjusted for different road types.

Transport secretary Grant Schapps made the announcement at the Conservative Party conference, saying that he is “exploring the possibility” of adjusting our speed limits. This involves plans to introduce limits as low as 20mph outside schools, while potentially raising limits to 80mph on motorways.

However, the increased motorway limits would come only when there is a higher uptake of electric vehicles. Raising the speed limit would result in higher carbon emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles, which Mr Schapps cited as a stumbling block to making the change sooner. However, with increased uptake in electric vehicles, the effects of this problem would be minimised.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Schapps said that “there is an argument” for considering the change to 80mph: “I’ve been thinking about this issue and maybe even sought advice on the subject of late. When it was last looked at in 2011, reviewing the last submission to ministers on the subject, it was thought the carbon emission addition would be too great.

“I got to thinking about whether that would still be the case. I think there is an argument that once you have increased the level of electrification and therefore decreased or entirely removed carbon, that you might look at those things again.”

This news coincides with the announcement that Edinburgh Council is considering expanding the city’s network of 20mph roads.

The reduced speed roads were first rolled out across Edinburgh last year, making it the first city in Scotland to implement a city-wide network of roads limited to 20mph. However, these roads have received widespread criticism from residents, with 61% saying they hadn’t noticed a reduction in speeds on these roads.

This sentiment is reflected by the assessment of the new limits, which showed that speeds have only reduced by an average of 1.34mph. Contrastingly, Edinburgh Council has said that research shows support for the scheme and that they have received requests for more roads to be added to the network. Findings have also shown these new limits could be causing a significant reduction in soft road collisions, although evidence for these findings was inconclusive.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener for City of Edinburgh Council, says the findings show the scheme is having a positive impact on the city’s road safety: “These initial results demonstrate that by leading the way to become Scotland’s first 20mph city we are having a real impact on the safety and wellbeing of people in Edinburgh.

“Research shows that for every 1mph reduction in speed there is a 6% reduction in accidents so the evidence that speeds are dropping by more than twice as much in some areas is extremely positive.

“Of course, there is still work to be done to encourage compliance and these findings will help us to target resources to achieve this.”

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