Sunak to restrict 20mph zones in attempt to win car drivers’ votes

The prime minister is set to launch a “plan for motorists” that includes curbing local 20mph speed limits, risking a fresh clash with eco-campaigners.

Just days ago, Rishi Sunak prompted howls of protest from climate experts when he watered down the government’s environmental commitments.

At the Conservative Party conference on Monday, he is reportedly preparing to announce a string of measures that also include prioritising car drivers over bus passengers.

Concern has risen among Tories that policies aimed at curbing the use of cars could cost them votes at next year’s general election.

It follows the Uxbridge and Ruislip by-election in July, when concerns over the expansion of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez) led to a narrow victory for the Conservatives.

Mr Sunak pledged then to crack down on “anti-motorist policies” to try to win votes.

His new plans, which have not been discussed with councils, are expected to include steps to restrict the powers of local authorities in England to introduce 20mph speed limits on main roads.

The number of hours a day that cars are banned from bus lanes would also be limited, The Guardian reported.

There could also be curbs on councils’ scope for imposing fines and raising revenue from number-plate-recognition cameras capturing drivers breaching rules of the road, and on the use of such cameras at box junctions.

The “plan for motorists” is likely to cause friction with local authorities, as well as with carbon campaigners.

Mr Sunak sparked rebellion in his party when he announced that the 2030 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars – and gas boilers – would be pushed back to 2035.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods are under review

(Getty Images)

He attacked climate “zealots”, saying it was wrong to “impose such significant costs on working people”.

But in the days after his announcement, his popularity sank to a record low of -45, according to a YouGov poll.

On Sunday, Wales became the first country in the UK to drop the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph for restricted roads, something English councils are thought to be considering.

A Department for Transport source described the policies as “speculation”.

In interviews with local BBC and ITV outlets, the prime minister refused repeatedly to promise to complete the Birmingham-to-Manchester phase of the HS2 rail link.

Transport charity Sustrans told The Guardian the plans would mean the prime minster was yet again failing those people who did not drive or own a car.

A spokesperson said: “Why is the prime minister going out of his way to clog our roads with cars – what kind of legacy is this supposed to leave? What about the 45 per cent of people on low incomes who don’t own a car?

“Prioritising cars in this way serves no one – not pedestrians, not cyclists, not users of public transport. It doesn’t even benefit drivers, who will face more congestion.”

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