60mph Motorway Plan Axed

Monday, 28 July 2014


New road regulations tend to drive most motorists crazy, and it's not often the case that we get a say in them. So it's good to hear a rare announcement that shows our opinion still matters. Following a hugely negative response from the public, it was recently announced that a 60mph speed limit proposed for stretches across two of Britain's major motorways has been axed.

The lower limit had been proposed for a 32-mile section of the M1 in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, and almost three miles of the M3 in Surrey, operating between 7am and 7pm, seven days per week. The Highways Agency claimed the measures would curb pollution levels in surrounding areas, which are set to breach EU air quality rules if planned road-widening schemes go ahead.

But, according to the Highways Agency consultation published on the 8th July 2014, 70.5% of respondents to an online survey and 53% of individuals contacted directly by the agency were against the idea.

Although all of the affected local authorities except for Hart District Council supported the idea, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has ruled out a blanket reduction in the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph. Speaking to the BBC, McLoughlin said, "I want all motorways to run at 70mph. While it sometimes makes sense to use variable limits to keep people moving, blanket reductions are not acceptable."

McLoughlin has also given the Highways Agency an ultimatum of 18 months to find another way to reduce pollution. One of the main alternatives under consideration are 'smart motorways'. These roads utilise traffic monitoring cameras and variable speed limits to better control the flow of traffic, reduce congestion and in turn reduce pollution.

In fact, the government claims that these measures can increase motorway capacity by one-third, and improve journey times by as much as 15%. Safety campaigners also believe that these measures would decrease accidents and car insurance claims by better monitoring drivers on the motorway.

Another idea that's being discussed is to build high barriers along the sections of motorway in order to funnel fumes away from ground level, reducing the impact of pollutants on residents in the immediate vicinity of the roads. Similar measures have been tested and found to cut pollution in the Netherlands, raising hopes that they could get the green light here.



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