UK & World News
Drivers Warned Of 60mph Motorway Speed Limit
Drivers are being warned 60mph limits could be imposed on all motorways after an announcement of plans to restrict speeds on a section of the M1.
The Highways Agency has disclosed a 34-mile section of the motorway will see reduced speed limits in an attempt to tackle pollution and indicated it could be repeated in other areas where emissions are high.
Motoring organisations have cautioned 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.
There are a number of other stretches of motorway across the country earmarked to see similar cuts in the limits from 2015.
The agency said the M1 between Junction 28 at Matlock in Derbyshire and Junction 35a for Sheffield, South Yorkshire, would see a 60mph limit between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.
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.
The Government had previously considered raising motorway speed limits to 80mph, bringing it more in line with other European countries, but these plans were dropped.
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."
AA President Edmund King said : "As there are plans for more than 100 miles of hard shoulder running on motorways the AA is concerned that these proposals may introduce a 60mph limit on motorways by the backdoor.
"Many drivers have purchased greener, cleaner cars so shouldn't be penalised because of a minority of gross polluters. Perhaps the government needs to look at higher speeds on motorways in dedicated lanes for cleaner cars rather than reducing speeds for all.
"Billions spent on railways to speed up thousands of journeys, while hundreds of millions spent on the M1 to slow down hundreds of thousands is an irony that won't be lost on drivers."
Chairman of campaign group the Alliance of British Drivers Brian MacDowall said: "The Government should be raising motorway speed limits, not reducing them.
"Air quality is important, but it has improved massively in recent years and will continue to do so as newer, cleaner vehicles replace older ones.
"The EU's air quality targets must not be used as an excuse to reduce speed limits or abandon vital road improvement schemes. If this proposal goes ahead, it will be the thin end of a very large wedge. It should be scrapped immediately."
A consultation on the proposed speed reduction will run until March 3.
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