SPEED limits are to be cut on dozens of stretches of major routes across Scotland in an attempt to reduce crashes. A review of the main “A” roads by the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency has recommended cutting maximum speeds by up to 20mph in areas.
The review, ordered six years ago, also proposed some speed-limit increases on other stretches of trunk roads.
The Scottish Government will now go ahead with introducing the speed-limit reductions. Ministers hope to bring in the first of the new limits by the end of the year. However, any speed limit increases are on hold until police checks show drivers are complying with existing maximum speeds.
The government has already ruled out raising motorway speed limits, which were not part of the review, from 70mph to 80mph.
The plans were met with a mixed reaction by motoring groups, with some claiming inconsistencies in the way the review recommendations were being implemented.
The changes affect 44 sections of major A roads, including most main routes between the Central Belt and north and north-east of Scotland, such as the A82, A84/85 and A90.
Cross-Border routes, including the A7, are also covered in the plans.
Most of the decreases involve the normal 60mph limit on rural single- carriageway roads being reduced to 50mph, but there are also planned cuts to lower limits around villages.
The stretches involved cover up to about 12 miles, such as between the Cluanie Inn and Kintail Lodge Hotel on the A87, and on the A83 between Ardrishaig and Tarbert. However, some speed-limit reductions are on shorter stretches in and around villages.
Drivers would also have to slow down on two main bridges, with the limit on the A9 Kessock bridge in Inverness coming down from 70mph to 50mph, and on the Erskine bridge, west of Glasgow, from 60mph to 50mph.
However, no speed reductions are proposed for the A9 between Perth and Inverness, despite its reputation of having a high accident rate.
The review found that the stretch of the road with the highest accident rate – Faskally, near Pitlochry – had 25 accidents per 100 million vehicle kilometres over three years. But this was less than one-third of that for a section near Helmsdale, north of Inverness, of 90.
One of the highest accident rates in the report to prompt a speed-limit cut was a five-mile stretch of the A85 through Glen Ogle between Lochearnhead and Lix Toll, near Killin. Its rate was 187 accidents per 100 million vehicle kilometres. The review said the speed limit should be cut from 60mph to 50mph on that stretch of road after it found that in crash assessments, “it appears the common causation is travelling too fast or exceeding the speed limit”.
The review also proposed raising speed limits on 23 stretches by up to 20mph, such as on four sections of the A87, including on Skye, and on four sections of the A702, which links Edinburgh with the M74.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said the review results were not being properly introduced.
Neil Greig, its Scotland-based policy and research director, said: “The IAM fully supported the review so drivers could be confident that all speed limits were up to date and reflected modern guidelines and road conditions. By not increasing those limits which the review has said could go up, the situation remains confused.
“Not only will no limits go up, but some that are going down don’t match the review’s suggestion.
“This has been a long exercise, which should have given us modern speed limits to build on for the future, but instead we have more room for doubt.”
The Royal Automobile Club Foundation was more supportive. Spokesman Philip Gomm said: “Setting speed limits is about balancing interests, and this review seems to have done that.
“What is important is that there is a recognition of local considerations, rather than blanket restrictions which are out of step with the characteristics of the road.
“Because this is a transparent process, drivers will be able to understand why they are being told to slow down in some locations, while residents will get to see the argument for letting drivers go faster in others.”
But Mr Gomm added: “The changes will need to be obvious to drivers, and the good work should be continued by a regular review process that takes note of changing circumstances.” The review follows guidance issued by the Scottish Government six years ago for speed limits to be “consistent, understood by drivers and appropriate for the environment and circumstances of their use”.
Local authorities, which are responsible for non-trunk roads, including minor A roads, are also reviewing limits.
Transport Scotland will now advertise the planned changes, giving affected people the chance to object, with the first order expected by the end of the year. The agency said: “All the proposed decreases will be progressed.”
The speed reductions will be implemented as traffic regulation orders under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
Figures published yesterday show that trunk roads – which also include motorways – accounted for 30 per cent of deaths in Scotland last year, and fell by 16 per cent to 56 compared with 2010.
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Road safety is of paramount importance. The main aim of the speed-limit review is to ensure that speed limits are consistent, understood by drivers and appropriate for their environment and circumstances for their use.
“In some areas where an increase has been recommended, Transport Scotland is already working with communities and the police to positively influence driver speeds towards compliance with the current limit.
“These measures will be given a period of time to assess their effectiveness, and no speed limit increases will be implemented until these options have been fully explored.”