110kmh limit moves closer

The Government is warming to the idea of a 110kmh speed limit on the best roads - and has confirmed it is under serious consideration for several new motorways, including Transmission Gully.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he would be open to discussions about raising the present 100kmh limit if the New Zealand Transport Agency felt there was a good case for it.

Ernst Zollner, the agency's road safety director, confirmed yesterday it had been "mulling the idea for a good year at a strategic level", after research from Monash University in Melbourne suggested it could be done without increasing the risk to motorists.

A 110kmh limit was being considered for motorways built as part of the Government's roads of national significance programme, provided they were flat, straight, had two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space.

Candidates included the Transmission Gully motorway and Kapiti Expressway in the Wellington region, the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link and the Northern Gateway toll road north of Auckland, Zollner said.

Bridges said he would wait to see what the agency's investigations turned up before deciding whether to progress discussions around the law change required for a 110kmh limit.

"But I think what is true is that, if the road design . . . can safely allow for different speeds, then we should at least think about it," he said.

"So that's where we are at the moment - we're at the 'thinking about it' stage."

His tone on the topic is more optimistic than that of former associate transport minister and present Police Minister Michael Woodhouse, who told The Dominion Post last month he did not feel the condition of motorways was consistent enough yet to warrant a 110kmh limit.

Zollner said the change was being considered as part of a wider review that could see some speed limits reduced to better suit the road design and environment.

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"For many roads, no change to travel speeds or speed limits will be needed," he said. "It is for those roads at the margins, where the current travel speeds or speed limits may be too low or too high, that changes could be made."

He expected the agency would present its views to Bridges by the middle of next year.

Any increase to the 100kmh limit would require public consultation.

While Bridges would not rule out changing the law, he was concerned about the implications of allowing drivers to travel at 110kmh when the average age of the vehicle fleet was 13 years - quite old by developed-world standards.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said he was encouraged to hear Bridges was open to the idea of a 110kmh limit.

"From our perspective, it's only fair that, if some speeds are going to come down to better reflect the road, then some should also go up, where possible."

Australia and Canada have motorway limits of 110kmh, while Britain's is 70mph, or about 113kmh.

 - The Dominion Post

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