65mph speed limit can ease motorists’ fuel headache

17 Mar

The answer to the ever-spiralling fuel costs facing British motorists could lie on the roads…of Spain.

As petrol prices continue to soar in the wake of the political chaos in Libya and other oil-producing countries, pressure is mounting in the UK for a cut in petrol duty, which with VAT accounts for two-thirds of pump prices.

But tax cuts are one thing David Cameron‘s government simply cannot afford in the current depressing economic climate.

The solution? Well, one way would be to follow the Spanish government‘s example by cutting the motorway speed limit and reducing rail fares to encourage drivers to become public-transport passengers.

I know 65mph on the M1 or M6 seems a ridiculously inhibitive limit but if it saves the average motorist 10p a litre, it surely makes sense. After all, if the government were to reduce petrol prices by 10p, there’d be whoops of delight from the AA and RAC.

My good friend Mike Thornton is sales manager of the BK Executive chauffeur-driven car-hire firm, whose fleet of luxury vehicles include Rolls Royces and Bentleys. And he is well aware of how much fuel can be saved by reducing speed by just a few miles per hour.

”By slowing down from 70 to 65mph, the average motorist would use 10 per cent less petrol,” he says. ”There are considerable savings to be made and if the government won’t reduce the price of fuel, then this is another way to put some money back in the motorist’s pocket.”

As someone who tootles around at a moderate speed and rarely uses motorways, I suspect my own savings would be minimal. But the revved-up racers who bomb around at the speed of sound could obviously save themselves a packet (not to mention the odd life or two)  if they actually had the sense  to slow down.

But the rocket men need not worry about having to come off their accelerator pedals because Britain is unlikely to adopt an idea that has been thought up by Johnny Foreigner.

I’ve grumped about it before, but one of the biggest weaknesses of the British psyche is our refusal to acknowledge that other countries sometimes do things better than we do. And in this case the Spanish have beaten us to the punch.

Earlier this month, they reduced the maximum speed on motorways and dual carriageways from 120kph (74.5mph) to 110kph (68.3mph) as a temporary means of saving energy.

The price of rail tickets on suburban and medium-distance services has also been reduced temporarily to offset the economic consequences of the rise in the price of crude oil.

These two limitations will be maintained while tensions in north Africa continue, and deputy prime minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is working on further measures like reducing street lighting and the energy costs of public buildings.

The Spanish authorities claim that the reduction in the speed limit could save drivers up to 15 per cent in petrol and 11 per cent in diesel.

Rubalcaba insisted that the tensions in north Africa do not pose a problem to supplies – but something had to be done to reduce the effect of rising fuel prices.

“Every ten-dollar rise in the price of a barrel of oil increases Spain’s energy bill by some 6,000 million euros,” he explained.

In 2008, a Daily Telegraph survey in 2008 found that of 27 European countries surveyed, Britain had the highest fuel taxes. Some 57p of the cost of a litre of petrol was tax, compared with 31p in Spain, 45p in Italy, 48p in France and 52p in Germany.

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