The government has proposed dropping the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph on a 32-mile section of the M1 running through South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and is considering it for other sections of motorway around the country. European Union restrictions on air pollution are driving the proposed changes. Dropping the speed limit means less emissions (in theory).
You might remember that only a couple of years ago the government was thinking of increasing the limit to 80mph on some motorway stretches. Vehicle safety and performance has increased to such a point that 80mph no longer causes your body to be vibrated to oblivion like it would have been in many cars 40 years ago.
Interested parties are at loggerheads, though. Environmental campaigns welcome any plan to reduce emissions, while motoring groups claim that switching between 70mph and 60mph on motorways would cause confusion. Surely if the changes were well-signposted, there would be no confusion as parts of motorways in other countries, such as New Zealand, have areas with reduced speed limits that are signposted when applicable.
The Highways Agency, which proposed the move, has now gone to consultation as part of a wide scheme to turn parts of the hard shoulder into an extra lane. This in isolation would push pollution levels above EU maximums, hence the proposed reduction in speed.
We haven’t seen any figures suggesting that this will make the desired impact. Surely the majority of air pollution is caused by five lanes of cars sitting idling or trundling along at a few miles per hour, and not thinly spaced traffic at 70mph. By the time traffic builds, it tends to slow anyway.
Can anyone shed any more light on the situation?