TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey said local authorities were fully entitled to implement controversial new speed limits in urban areas but admitted the situation will need to be reviewed.
Commenting on the new policy amid growing criticism from motoring groups, Mr Dempsey distanced himself from the 30km/h scheme introduced in Dublin and possibly in Cork and Galway. But he also said people should “wait and see” how it works and that in his experience of similar speed limits in cities such as Copenhagen it had seemed to improve traffic flow. He said “a reasonable amount of time” should be allowed before the scheme is reviewed.
The minister made his comments as the chief executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Noel Brett also indicated the merits of the scheme will have to be reviewed after a certain period of time.
The minister said: “It is a matter for the local authority members, I’m sure they have studied it very, very carefully and made their decision. I would not question their decision at all, I think they have competence in that area.” He said past research had shown the average speed in Dublin city centre was 13km/h and the new lower speed-limit was unlikely to affect that.
Asked if there should be set time-frame within which the policy should be reviewed he said: “That is a matter for them.”
He said there was a whole host of reasons why speed limits should be lowered and he added: “All of these things should be kept under review but it is a matter for the council themselves.”
The Irish School of Motoring was the latest group to voice its opposition to the speed limits, standing alongside the AA, taxi drivers and others in criticising the plans.
Mr Brett said local authorities had the power to set speed limits and that a road safety audit would be needed in those cases. He said the RSA was in favour of reduced speed limits in areas with vulnerable road users such as schools.
He said he had not seen the road safety audit in this case but that there was no “one-size-fits-all” approach to road safety.
“You really do have to look at it on a location-by-location basis,” he added. Mr Dempsey also admitted yesterday there will be no extra money for local authorities seeking to repair pot-holed roads badly damaged by the recent cold snap.
The roads budget allocation announced on Monday was down compared with that of previous years and the minister said €400 million had been put aside for roadworks but local authorities were now free of usual restrictions on how they spend their budgets so as to prioritise the repair of roads which, in some cases, are now disintegrating due to the effects of the bad weather of recent months.
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