two road signs covered in black plastic
20mph signs on Henllys Way (covered up before the new limit was introduced) Credit: Cwmbran Life

Wales’ new transport secretary confirmed a change of course on the controversial 20mph policy but continued to face calls to scrap the default speed limit completely.

Ken Skates told the Senedd the 20mph policy will be targeted at schools, hospitals, nurseries, community centres, play areas and built-up residential areas.

Mr Skates said the Welsh Government will revise guidance on exceptions by the summer, with work to adjust speed limits expected to begin from September.

In response to councils’ concerns about costs, such as for swapping signs, he confirmed the Welsh Government will foot the bill for reverting roads back to 30mph.

Mr Skates said: “What I am doing now is listening to what people want for the roads in their communities and pressing ahead with refining the policy.”

‘Right speed’

Giving a statement on his priorities, the newly appointed cabinet secretary for north Wales and transport committed to listening to people to get the “right speed on the right roads”.

He said: “Ultimately, the degree of change in each of our 22 local authority areas will not be determined by me and the Welsh Government but by the public and councils.”

Mr Skates encouraged people to contact their local council via the Welsh Government’s website to have their say about where 20mph should be targeted.

The transport secretary, who returned to the frontbench in Vaughan Gething’s reshuffle in March, said an external review of the 20mph policy will be published in the next few weeks.

Mr Skates, who replaced Lee Waters, told the chamber new roads will be built and existing ones improved, with the network better designed to accommodate bus priority lanes.


Nearly half a million people signed a record-breaking Senedd petition, calling for the “disastrous” 20mph policy, which came into force in September, to be scrapped.

Pointing out that 20mph will remain the default, Natasha Asghar, the Conservatives’ shadow transport secretary, also called for the “daft, divisive and destructive” law to be abandoned.

She said: “It is clear from the rhetoric that the Welsh Government has finally cottoned on to the fact that the 20mph policy has been a complete shambles.”

The South Wales East MS urged the Welsh Government to go further by making 30mph the default speed limit with exceptions made for 20mph, rather than the other way around.

Ms Asghar warned that anything less than rescinding the law is just paying lip service.

However, Mr Skates argued the Conservatives’ suggested approach, which would require traffic regulation orders, would bankrupt Wales and increase red tape.

‘Billions at stake’

Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru’s shadow transport secretary, criticised the Welsh Government’s decision not to pursue legal action against UK ministers over HS2 funding.

Ms Jewell, who also represents South Wales East, told the chamber billions of pounds are at stake which would have a material effect on improving Wales’ transport services.

She said: “HS2 tracks don’t travel into Wales at all but we are paying for it all the same,” with Mr Skates responding that legal advice suggesting a challenge would likely fail.

The Plaid Cymru deputy leader raised concerns about drastic cuts to vital bus services, arguing investment in rail should not come at the expense of buses.

Turning to 20mph, Ms Jewell said it is important not to lose sight of the radical policy’s aim as she highlighted that a four-year-old girl was killed in a crash in Birmingham last week.

Learner travel

Plaid Cymru’s Heledd Fychan raised concerns about cuts to learner travel, saying no child should miss a day of school because they cannot afford the bus.

Vowing to work with Lynne Neagle, Wales’ new education secretary, on home-to-school transport, Mr Skates said the future of buses is one of his very top priorities.

Swansea East MS Mike Hedges called for a rebalancing of support between buses and rail.

Mr Skates told the Labour backbencher a forthcoming bill on bus services will correct the “great mistake” of privatisation in the mid-1980s.

Pressed by Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth about calls for a third Menai crossing, Mr Skates did not rule it out but warned that public finances are incredibly tight.

Hefin David, the Labour MS for Caerphilly, welcomed plans to review the 20mph guidance, calling for councillors, who know their communities best, to be involved in discussions.