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Speed limits

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Cumbria County Council is the highway authority for most roads in Cumbria; all except motorways and trunk roads. Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 the county council has the power to introduce speed limits, by Order, on roads for which it is responsible. An assessment of a number of factors is made, including existing speeds, the surrounding environment and safety considerations. The procedures for the imposition of a new speed limit are laid down by Government and require consultations, publication of notices and the consideration of any relevant representations made. Local committees of the council have been delegated the power to introduce new speed limit Orders.

National legislation ensures that in the absence of an introduced speed limit Order, motorways and dual carriageways are de-restricted at 70mph, single carriageways at 60mph and roads with a system of street lighting are restricted to 30mph (restricted roads).

The council may introduce by Order, the following speed limits in certain circumstances;

  • 20mph, either as a discrete limit on a small number of roads or as a zone covering larger areas. In either case, physical traffic calming features are usually necessary to ensure average speeds do not exceed 20mph.
  • 30mph, typically on existing roads which do not have street lights, e.g. village roads.
  • 40mph and 50mph on other roads.
  • 60mph on existing dual carriageways.

Speed limit signs

Speed limit signs are required at all locations where a speed limit changes, e.g. where a road passes from a rural area into a built up area which includes street lights. Most speed limits also have repeater signs, except in the following circumstances:

  • Unlit roads subject to the national limits of 70mph and 60mph.
  • Lit restricted roads (30mph repeater signs in roads with street lights are forbidden by law).     

Road markings may also indicate the speed limit but they are in addition to the up-right signs and may not be used on their own to indicate a speed limit.

Heavy Goods vehicles, buses and cars towing caravans etc.

HGVs (over 7.5Tmgw), buses and towing cars are subject to lower limits than most signed limits, they have their own speed limits. For example a goods vehicle has a speed limit of 60mph on a motorway, 50mph on a de-restricted dual carriageway and 40mph on a de-restricted single carriageway. For details concerning all vehicle types refer to the highway code.


Only the police can enforce speed limits in this country at the present time.