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Preston Western Distributor 50mph speed limit causes confusion

Posted on - 13th July, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Cottam, Lea, Politics, Preston News, Roads, Transport
Cars on the new Preston Western Distributor Pic: Lancashire County Council

Highways bosses have explained why the speed limit on the new Preston Western Distributor Road is only 50 miles per hour – even though the original plan had been for it to be a 70mph route.

They have also acknowledged that “an oversight” meant that the higher speed was still being advertised online until last Monday morning – just hours before the long-awaited link road opened.

That information was reproduced by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), but once traffic was permitted to start using the two-and-a-half mile stretch of dual carriageway, signage revealed that 50mph was the maximum speed.

Read more: Preston Western Distributor £207m price tag defended by Lancashire County Council

To add to the confusion, a picture appeared on social media from a motorist who had spotted a speed enforcement van on the new route early in the week – sparking fears that fines may have been issued within days of the road opening, before drivers had become accustomed to it.

However, Lancashire Police told the LDRS on Friday (7 July) that while one of their mobile speed camera vehicles had driven the route, none had yet been deployed to enforce the speed limit in the area – meaning that anyone who had exceeded 50mph up until then would not have received a penalty notice.

Lancashire County Council said that safety concerns had caused it to rethink its initial intention to make Edith Rigby Way – as the Preston Western Distributor is now officially known – a 70mph road.

Read more: Watch drive-through of the new Edith Rigby Way

That proposed limit was put in the public domain as long ago as 2017, when the £207m scheme was first granted planning permission – and it was reiterated when ground was broken on the site two years later.

Seventy miles-per-hour is the so-called “national speed limit” for cars on a dual carriageway in a non-built-up area – but lower limits can be implemented if they are deemed more suitable.

County Hall has not said when the decision was taken to slash the limit for the Preston Western Distributor – but has admitted that its dedicated webpage for the project still stated a top speed of 70mph until shortly before Monday’s rain-sodden opening ceremony.

Read more: Broadgate CYCLOPS junction officially opens

A spokesperson for the authority said: “We originally considered a higher speed limit on Edith Rigby Way – however, a review showed that a 50mph limit was more appropriate.

“This took into account pedestrians and cyclists along parts of the route, other vehicle movements at junctions and the safety of all road users.

“Vehicle numbers joining from other roads will also increase as nearby new housing developments are constructed.

“On a road of this length it only means a negligible difference in journey time.

“Signs notifying people of the 50mph speed limit were in place along Edith Rigby Way before it opened to the public on Monday.

“Our webpage for this scheme had shown the higher speed limit up until Sunday, due to an oversight, but this was taken off before the road opened.”

The updated webpage does not now specify any speed limits.

Two adjoining new routes – the Cottam and East-West link roads, now known as William Young Way and Avice Pimblett Way, respectively – have lower limits which vary between 30 and 40mph along their single carriageway lengths.

The Preston Western Distributor’s 50mph limit has polarised opinion on social media, with some suggesting that it was a ruse to raise money in fines and others noting that motorists simply had to abide by the well-signed maximum speed in order to stay on the right side of the law.

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

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