Wales will become one of the first countries in the world, and the first nation in the UK, to lower the default national speed limit on residential roads from 30mph to 20mph this month.

The Welsh Government passed the law in July 2022 which will see a default 20mph speed limit placed on restricted roads across Wales. 

Restricted roads are usually located in residential and built-up areas and often have street lights on them (placed no more than 200 yards apart).

When does the speed limit change to 20mph in Wales?

The speed limit on restricted roads across Wales will be reduced from 30mph to 20mph on September 17, 2023.

Eight communities have already trialled the 20mph speed limit:

  • St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire
  • Llanelli North, Carmarthenshire
  • St Brides Major, Vale of Glamorgan
  • Central North, Cardiff
  • Cilfrew Village, Neath Port Talbot
  • Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
  • Severnside, Monmouthshire
  • Buckley, Flintshire

Why will roads in Wales be restricted to 20mph?

The Welsh Government, on its website, outlines five main reasons for the reduction in the national speed limit on residential roads from 30mph to 20mph:

  • To reduce the number of collisions and severe injuries from them (also reducing the impact on the NHS from treating the people who are injured);
  • Encourage more people to walk and cycle in our communities;
  • Help to improve our health and well-being;
  • Make our streets safer;
  • Safeguard the environment for future generations.

Wales 20mph map - all the roads affected by the speed limit change and those that are exempt

From September 17, 2023, all restricted roads in Wales will be reduced from a 30mph to 20mph speed limit. 

However, there will be some exemptions

You can see all the roads set to be impacted by the speed limit change, and the ones that will be exempt on the DataMapWales map below.

The Welsh Government website, explaining roads that would be exempt from the change, says: "We recognise not all roads with a currently at 30mph limit will be suitable to change to 20mph.

"These roads will be known as exceptions.

"Local Authorities will consider with their communities which roads should remain at 30mph and there will be 30mph signs to tell you this."

Response to the change to 20mph speed limit in Wales

The change to the speed limit in Wales has caused some controversy among the public.

Around 50,000 people signed an online petition saying 20mph limits were “causing chaos” and “doing nothing to reduce emissions”.

Even emergency services criticised the new 20mph speed limit saying it "will have an impact" on how long it takes to respond to 999 calls.

In an email, obtained by the Welsh Conservatives through a Freedom of Information request, from South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis to all fire, police and ambulance services in Wales said the new limit "will have an influence on how fast police travel and may impact how they respond".

ACC Travis has since said he believes response times will not be affected - and the roads being slower will in fact make it easier for emergency services to make progress.

South Wales Guardian: The 20mph speed limit change in Wales has caused some controversy among the public.The 20mph speed limit change in Wales has caused some controversy among the public. (Image: PA)

However, not everyone has said the change would be a bad thing. 

According to the University Hospital of Wales’ paediatric emergency consultant, Dr David Hanna, driving at 20mph instead of 30mph will be "lifesaving".

How much will it cost to change the speed limit to 20mph on road in Wales?

Some Welsh councils will receive more than £3.5 million to prepare roads for the switch to the new 20mph speed limit.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the government has set aside more than £30 million in “core allocations” to fund the switchover, including costs for new signs and road markings.

The Neath Port Talbot council is set to receive the most funding with more than £3.7 million. 

While Denbighshire will receive the least, with just £346,067.

The full list of funding for each council can be seen below.

South Wales Guardian: Three Welsh council's are set to receive more than £3 million to help with the change to 20mph speed limits on restricted roads.Three Welsh council's are set to receive more than £3 million to help with the change to 20mph speed limits on restricted roads. (Image: Newsquest)

How will the 20mph speed limit will be enforced in Wales?

Everyone is going to be doing their bit when it comes to helping enforce the 20mph speed limit change in Wales.

The Welsh Government and councils will be helping to educate drivers on the change. 

While Police and Fire and Rescue services will be helping to enforce the new changes, as well as educating.

Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, GoSafe, will also be involved with all parties to make sure the introduction and enforcement of the new 20mph speed limit goes smoothly.