Skip to content

Highways Agency Proposes Reduced Speed Limit on M1 to Cut Air Pollution

The Highways Agency has proposed a reduced speed limit on a 32 mile section of the M1. From junction 28 at Matlock to junction 35a close to Rotherham the limit would be reduced from 70mph to 60mph. The move is a bid to cut air pollution in a busy stretch of motorway that cuts through a heavily populated area.

The Highways Agency has proposed a reduced speed limit on a 32 mile section of the M1. From junction 28 at Matlock to junction 35a close to Rotherham the limit would be reduced from 70mph to 60mph. The move is a bid to cut air pollution in a busy stretch of motorway that cuts through a heavily populated area. New EU regulations have come into force which demand better air quality and the Highways Agency argues that the 60mph limit is required to ensure local air quality meets these criteria. The new limit would be in force between 7am and 5pm every day.

Variable speed limits have long been used to manage traffic flow but it is believed that the M1 scheme will be the first time a limit has been reduced due to environmental concerns. The move is in stark contrast to a recent government proposal to increase motorway speed limits to 80mph. This was backed by the Transport Research Laboratory, which suggested that the higher limit would increase motorway capacity, shorten journey times and deliver hundreds of millions of pounds in benefits to the economy. In its consultation paper, the Highways Agency suggests that the limit would be likely to remain in place for several years.

In the document, the Highways Agency claims that the 70mph speed limit has an adverse impact on air quality in the area. It also suggests that the speed reduction would reduce congestion, increase capacity and shorten journey times. The rest of the M1 would be unaffected by the change.

Motoring organisations are less sure of the benefits of the scheme. David Bizley, technical director at the RAC, said: "This is a landmark proposal as to the best of our knowledge motorway speed limits have not previously been lowered in order to comply with environmental legislation. It would certainly negate some of the current benefits of operating this section as a 'smart' motorway where motorists are allowed to use the hard shoulder to reduce congestion. More worryingly, it could pave the way for similar restrictions on other sections of motorway. While preserving air quality is obviously a paramount concern there will inevitably be a negative impact on business efficiency and individual mobility."

The quality of air breathed by local residents will undoubtedly trump any concerns about business efficiency. Motorists, though, are likely to question how lowering the speed limit on the M1 will achieve very similar benefits in terms of reduced congestion, shorter journey times and increased capacity that the government was only recently claiming would be delivered by increasing the speed limit to 80mph.

 

Posted by on

Back to January 2014

Back to top