Matters of moment, January 1973

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• Into Europe

Britain is now part of the EEC. How this will work out is no more the concern of a motoring journal than is the present conflict between the Government and the TUC—and much relief for that! From the motoring angle, however, Britain was hardly ready to go and join the European partnership.

We are not suggesting that this little Island should have changed overnight to driving on the right. But we deeply deplore retention of the Motorway 70 m.p.h. speed-limit. After sensible experimentation, speed restrictions have been virtually abolished from the Autoroutes of Europe, some of which have minimum speed-limits. Following observations made during a recent high-speed tour of nearly 3,800 miles embracing nine European countries, Motor Sport is of the opinion that on good roads speed-limits are unnecessary. During this tour, on which we met with every possible weather variant, not a single accident was seen on the Continental motor roads and, incidentally, very few broken down vehicles. Police patrols were few, frontiers entailed but a brief pause, and along the Autoroutes drivers were free to motor at their own safe speed, unbunched and unharried. It is customary to cruise at 100 m.p.h. upwards for hundreds of kilometres and in a good car, such as the BMW we used, it was quite safe to maintain more than 130 m.p.h. for long distances.

Contrast this with Britain, where the pedestrian-70 extends to all our roads and where the Aerospace Minister was clobbered for exceeding it in his Jaguar along the fine M4 Motorway. HRH Princess Anne has twice been stopped by the Police for going over 70 in a Reliant Scimitar also on the M4 freeway. The Princess is a responsible young lady who would not wittingly endanger her escort or her detective and the fact that Her Royal Highness and a Minister of the Crown were drawn into going faster than the Law allows, serves to endorse our opinion that a speed-limit on our growing network of Motorways should be abolished. That no action seems to have been taken in the case of the Princess is sensible, because surely some small privileges should be extended to the Monarchy, in return for the great service it renders to this country ? The same should apply to the Prime Minister—but we do not include motoring MPs!

On modern roads in good visibility trapping speeding cars is futile. Indeed, the Police say they cannot stop a fast car on a crowded Motorway. They have been reduced to timing them from bridges and trying to trace the drivers from car numbers. Which is pathetic! The excuse that the M4 has become “the haunt of sports-cars racing at 140 m.p.h.” is hardly valid, for our capable Motorway police would be better engaged in firmly putting down such wheeled hooliganism, if it exists, than clicking stopwatches.

Meanwhile, in Europe, which we have now joined politically, vehicles travel across the Continent at unmolested speeds, thus making effective use of Autoroutes which cost astronomical sums in terms of public money and, although a military strategists’ dream, only become an economic peacetime asset if used to the best possible advantage.

Most of us long ago discarded the traditional British breakfast of kedgeree and kippers, pheasant, partridge, bacon, sausages, spuds, buttered scones, honeycomb, raspberries and nectarines. Some of us even manage on croissants and coffee. In a similar spirit of emancipation we must now insist on the abolition of our Motorway speed-limit, in order that Britain’s traffic arteries are as unthrottled as are the majority of European roads . . .

• Veteran and Vintage in Europe

The Chairman of the Fanfare for Europe Committee, Lord Mancroft, asked Lord Montagu of Beaulieu to organise a “Veteran and Vintage Drive into Europe”, which is to take place from January 6th-8th. Pre-war cars are a well-worn public attraction these days, so Lord Mancoft’s desire to have some 80 of them on parade to help publicise Britain’s entry into Europe comes as no surprise. And as such things have to be sponsored nowadays, it comes as no surprise that The Financial Times is underwriting the run, which is scheduled to start from London’s Horse Guards Parade at 11.00 on January 6th, for arrival in Brussels at about 18.00 on January 7th. What does surprise us is that, as well as acting as EEC publicity material, the drivers are to present a petition to the EEC Commission “requesting them to ensure that EEC regulations will always allow veteran and vintage motoring to continue in Europe without restriction.” When Motor Sport raised doubts last year, Lord Montagu stated that we had “caused a rather unnecessary scare” as there was no EEC regulation aimed at banning old cars from the roads of Europe, that the movement is flourishing on the Continent, but that if individual countries ever contemplated restrictive rules “it is their own Vintage and Veteran movement which will suffer and not ours”. So why this petition ?

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