At the same time, speed limits in more urban areas will fall to 20mph.
Transport minister Philip Hammond believes raising the limit from 70 mph to 80 mph will shorten journey times and boost the economy.
Perplexed road safety and green lobbyists complain that raising the limit will lead to more accidents and injuries on major road and lead to vehicles using 20 per cent more fuel.
However, they are praising the initiative to create more 20 mph as they are expected to cut the number of injuries and deaths from road accidents in urban areas.
The proposal is likely to go through consultation before becoming law in 2013. The minister explained the current limit, which was introduced in 1965, was out of date due to advances in safety and motoring technology.
Meanwhile, many motoring commentators consider the change will have little effect on motorists.
Raising the speed limit is unlikely to affect most motorists as Department for Transport statistics reveal 49 per cent of cars on motorways exceed the 70mph limit. One in seven was recorded at 80mph or faster. Only 12 per cent of drivers say they observe the limit.
Traffic police mostly ignore motorists who drive at around 80mph.
Some road safety campaigners are worried that 90mph will be treated the same as motorists currently driving at 80mph.
“The government should be looking to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads, not putting forward proposals which are likely to increase them,” said Ellen Booth, of road safety campaigners Brake.
British speed limits are lower than most in Europe – France and Italy have an 81mph maximum, while the limit is 75 mph in Ireland, Spain and Portugal. German autobahns have no top limit.
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