Pollution-linked speed limits under consideration for UK smart motorway

24-02-2017

Speed limits that decrease at busy times are under consideration for one of the UK’s newest smart motorways as a means of tackling air pollution caused by vehicle emissions.

If approved, it would see the speed limit on the M1 between junctions 32 and 35a around Sheffield reduced from 70mph to 60mph between the hours of 7am and 7pm, seven days a week, the Guardian reports.

The proposal coincides with plans to invest £106 million in ‘smart motorway’ technologies for the stretch of highway, which include features such as all-lane running. The Guardian noted this scheme is likely to add thousands of vehicles to the motorway, increasing the amount of pollution.

The area already fails to meet European Union air pollution quality targets and has been highlighted by the World Health Organization as having dangerously high levels of pollution.

A spokesman for Highways England, which manages the M1, said smart motorway schemes are a key pillar of the modernisation of the UK’s transport network, helping to reduce congestion and improve journey times by smoothing traffic flows.

“One of our key challenges in delivering the £15 billion government investment in infrastructure is tackling the issue presented by air quality and in order to meet environmental targets we are investing in [a] wider programme of air quality research to help address this.”

Motoring organisation the AA has warned that the proposed reduced speed limit is likely to anger drivers, who will face fines should they exceed the 60mph limit. A spokesman said there will be some people who feel they are being penalised for emissions that are likely to come from other sources as well as their own cars.

“Car users are always the easy hit when it comes to pollution when actually they are not one of the main contributors,” he said. “There will be people raising their eyebrows about whether this is just an example of the authorities trying to look like they are doing something.”

Highways England stressed the speed limit proposal is just one of a number of options being considered, with other potential solutions including the use of roadside barriers with ‘catalytic paints’ designed to remove pollutants from the air, or putting piles of ‘mineral polymer’ alongside the road to absorb emissions.



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