Spain to axe speed limit imposed after oil price rise

Spain is to remove a controversial temporary speed limit on motorways introduced to cut fuel consumption because of rising oil prices.

The limit was cut to 110km/h (68mph) in March drawing protests from motorists including the Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso.

The government says petrol prices have now fallen and, from 1 July, motorists can again drive at 120km/h (75mph).

Oil prices spiked after uprisings in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Spain is heavily dependent on imported fuel and 13% of its oil usually comes from Libya.

"The circumstances have changed so we understand the measure is no longer required and we are going back to 120 km/h," Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said after a weekly cabinet meeting.

He acknowledged that the slower speed limit had provoked "strong debate" but said it had saved Spain 450m euros (£399m) in its balance of payments.

Many Spaniards believed the change was a ruse to raise funds through more speeding fines.

The main opposition Popular Party labelled it "absurd" and "improvised" and a poll for El Pais newspaper put opposition to the speed cut at 69%.

Spanish racing driver Fernando Alonso - who drives a Ferrari in excess of 300kph on the race track - also ridiculed the lowered limit, quipping that it was "difficult to stay awake" at less than 110km/h.

Mr Rubalcaba rebuffed his criticism, saying drivers in the US complied with the same speed limit "and I have never seen them driving while asleep".