Earlier this week the government announced plans to set a 60mph speed limit for a stretch of 34 miles of the M1. The proposal has the aim of cutting pollution. The 60mph restriction the Highways Agency has warned may be repeated in other areas where emissions are high. The Highway Agency also said that the limit would apply from 7am to 7pm all days of the week.
Motoring Organisations have cautioned than the move is the ‘thin end of a very large wedge’ which could pave the way for a blanket lowering of the motorway speed limit. Motoring groups claim the limit will have a negative impact on businesses and that it would be ridiculous to limit drivers to 60mph if the motorway was empty.
The stretch of the motorway which is to be affected runs from junction 28 near Matlock, Derbyshire to junction 35a north of Rotherham. The normal speed limit would still apply to the rest of the M1 which runs from north London to Leeds. The new speed limit is set to be in place for many years and any driver caught breaking it will face a hefty fine and penalty point on their license.
In the Highway Agency’s document on the subject they stated that the current use of the 70mph limit for motorways was having an adverse impacts on air quality and that cutting it would reduce emissions. In addition it said the change would bring ‘reduced congestions, increased capacity and improved journey time reliability for users of the motorway. The plan is aimed at helping to meet European Union clean air targets and is part of the ‘smart’ motorway scheme which will see vehicles using the hard shoulder as an extra lane to ease congestion.
Britain has some of the lowest national limits in Europe, behind 24 other countries. The plans contrast greatly with what Philip Hammond the transport secretary in 2011 suggested, which was to raise the motorway speed limit. He pointed to work by the Transport Research Laboratory which suggested raising the limit would deliver hundreds of millions of pounds in economic benefits due to shorter journey times. However the research also suggested there would be 18 additional deaths a year.
RAC technical director David Bizley 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.
“If this becomes reality for the 34-mile stretch of the M1, which seems highly likely, 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.”
Well this new limit is definitely controversial, what do you think of it?