Plans to increase the speed limit for lorries on a large number of British roads have led to angry exchanges about road safety.
The Government has revealed that, from early next year, HGVs will be able to travel at 50mph on single carriageway rural roads.
Transport Minister Claire Perry claims that increasing the limit from 40mph would bring lorries into line with other larger vehicles like coaches and caravans, and reduce dangerous overtaking.
“We are doing all we can to get Britain moving and boost growth,” she said. “This change will do exactly that and save our haulage industry £11 million a year.
“Current speed limits for HGVs were introduced around 50 years ago and need to be updated given improved vehicle technology.”
Motoring organisations, including the AA and RAC, have welcomed the announcement, claiming that slow-moving lorries lead to tailbacks and make the cars that are following behind more likely to take risks overtaking.
But road safety campaigners and the Green Party have argued that far from reducing the number of collisions, the change was likely to lead to far more fatal accidents.
Horse riders, pedestrians and cyclists would be a particular risk, according to the critics.
Martin Key, campaigns manager for British Cycling, said: “It’s staggering that the Government has increased the speed limit for these vehicles when many of them are simply not fit for purpose.
“HGVs are involved in a fifth of cyclist fatalities and many of the vehicles have large blind spots which prevent drivers seeing people near the cab.”
Scrapping the 40mph limit, which has been in place since the 1960s, will bring Britain in step with European neighbours including Denmark and Norway.