YESTERDAY (Sunday, September 17) Wales became one of the first countries in the world, and the first nation in the UK, to lower the default national speed limit on residential roads from 30mph to 20mph.

The 20mph speed limit has been a hot topic across Wales since the Welsh Government passed the law in July 2022 which will see a default 20mph speed limit placed on residential roads all over the country. 

These roads are usually located in residential and built-up areas and often have street lights on them (placed no more than 200 yards apart).

Since midnight on Saturday night, unless a residential road is exempt, it will have a 20mph speed limit.

Mobile and fixed speed cameras will be in place on certain residential roads across Wales to monitor drivers and ensure they are following the new limit.

The move has proved divisive at best.

Drakeford responds to 20mph move critics

Asked why swathes of Welsh motorists were “dead set against” the change to a 20mph speed limit in urban areas, first minister Mark Drakeford said “change is difficult”.

“Persuading people to adopt something different will always take time,” he said.

“I’m the only person (in this studio) old enough to remember the introduction of the breathalyser and seatbelt laws – both were highly controversial at the time.”

Mr Drakeford said that the 20mph limit in urban areas will "lead to fewer deaths, fewer accidents and is a small price to pay to make sure people are safe".

“Wales will lead the way," he said.


The Welsh Government website, explaining roads that would be exempt from the change, says: "We recognise not all roads with a currently at 30mph limit will be suitable to change to 20mph.

"These roads will be known as exceptions.

"Local Authorities will consider with their communities which roads should remain at 30mph and there will be 30mph signs to tell you this."

The RAC issued a warning to all motorists driving in Wales, urging them to “pay full attention” to signs rather than their sat navs.

To view a map of affected roads in your area - click here.

Fines not automatic for 20mph flouters

Any motorist caught driving over 20mph but under 30mph will initially receive advice from the police rather than face a ticket, a minister said.

Lee Waters, deputy minister for climate change, told the PA news agency: “Very much the intention initially is to educate and to speak to people and not to fine but over 30mph we will be fining and issuing points.”

The minister said he expected it would take around a month for motorists to get used to the changes but said trials of the 20mph limits had shown a typical delay of between one to two minutes for an average journey.

“Most delay doesn’t occur because of speed, it could be because of delays at junctions and traffic lights,” he said.

“We’ve all been overtaken by an idiot only to find them one space in front of us at the lights.

“A business model that assumes on somebody driving a way that is dangerous is not a very good business model.”


How has the move to 20mph affected Newport?

Driving into Newport along Chepstow Road from the M4 Coldra roundabout this morning (Sunday), this Argus reporter noticed that drivers were by and large adhering to the new limit.

Driving slightly more slowly than normal was unusual for a short while, but the journey was not held up by any meaningful length of time.

A Facebook group, set up in the days leading up to the implementation of the new speed limits and given the tongue-twisting name ‘20 is not plenty stop the speed reductions a group to discuss the 20 mph’,  has become a hotbed of critical posts about the move.

After seeing some of the posts on the group, we decided to ask motorists parking in Newport’s Friars Walks shopping centre if the change to 20mph had affected them.

One man, who claimed his name was ‘Mark Drakeford’, said that his namesake in the Senedd had “done a great job”.

“It made no difference at all,” he said.

“You’ve always had to drive slowly through Newport anyway so why are people so upset?

“All these angry people, it’s a bit sad.

“Give it a few weeks and they will be frothing at the mouth about whatever the next thing is.

“It was Covid before, now it’s this, then it’ll be something else and they will have forgotten all about how angry the 20mph thing made them.”

Mary Anderson said that while the change to 20mph did not bother her all that much “there are so many other things they should be focussing on”.

“Nurses' pay, the schools falling down [the RAAC concrete issue], cost of living,” she said.

“Why is this 20 limit top of their list?”

Lee Thompson said: “It’s a stupid idea.

“It will mean ambulances and emergency services won’t be able to get to accidents in time.

“What about taxi drivers too?

“It beggars belief. We should all just drive the same as normal.”


Tory opposition to the 20mph measures

Leader of the Welsh Tories, Andrew RT Davies, spent Sunday morning tweeting in condemnation of the new speed limits.

He branded the 20mph limit “beyond insane” in one tweet, before directing his vitriol towards Mr Waters

"Labour’s 20mph speed limits are now in force in Wales,” he said.

“Lee Waters imposed this extreme policy on the Welsh people in an ideological crusade. People will pay the price.”

Shadow transport minister, Natasha Asghar, was also scathing in her opinion of the new speed limits.

She said: “The Labour Government's 20mph speed limit coming into force today will cost the Welsh economy up to £8.9 billion, slow down our emergency services, and negatively impact people's livelihoods.

“Sadly, with the Labour Deputy Minister refusing to rule out further speed limit changes, along with the Labour Government's road building ban and the introduction of road charging, Labour continue to wage their anti-worker, anti-road and anti-motorist agenda.”