In an interview with Auto Express magazine, transport minister Stephen Hammond last week said the government was considering higher motorway speeds and even thinking of introducing trials in 2014.

Hammond told the magazine the idea was “not dead,” adding: “We are thinking about how we could trial it rather than go to a consultation.”

Whether you think higher legal motorway speeds would be good for road users and the road freight industry or not though, should you hold your breath for a formal announcement of trials?

Perhaps not. Despite Hammond's apparent enthusiasm, his senior colleague, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is known to be at best sceptical about the benefits of a higher limit.

And the language used by the DfT press office when MT tried to get more detail on the issue, seems to suggest little in the way of a departmental need for speed.

“There's no timetable for any announcement,” said a spokeswoman, adding that if any trials were to happen there would have to be a consultation first, which seems to contradict Hammond's statement.

Also arguably significant is the fact that the work the DfT is doing into speed limits is not formal research as such and no external body has been tasked with carrying it out. It's currently an internal process looking at the social and environmental impacts, with no timetable for completion.

Despite Hammond's apparent enthusiasm, these proposals look as likely to be escorted permanently into a bureaucratic lay-by as they are to be fast tracked for trials.

By Andrew Stone