Transport Secretary rejects 60mph limit on M1 and M3

The Highways Agency has been given 18 months to look at ways of tackling pollution on stretches of the M1 and M3 motorways. The affected areas are 32 miles of road between junctions 28 and 31 of the M1 and just 2.8 miles of the M3 between junctions 2 and 4a.

Speed, surveys say, could contribute to higher pollution levels, and one of the solutions had been to impose a 60mph speed limit on both stretches between 7am and 7pm. However, consultation with motorists and with local businesses resulted in a widespread rejection of the plan, and the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has said that this would not be the right solution.

Alternatives to speed reduction

Although a blanket approach to reducing the speed limit has been ruled out, a variable speed restriction could still be imposed on the routes, cutting speed when air pollution is particularly bad. Other solutions include the use of higher barriers which funnel the fumes away from ground level. Already trialled in Holland, these barriers have been found to reduce air pollution and also noise from the carriageway.

Larger vehicles, such as freight-carrying lorries and trucks are also more likely to cause air pollution and a further solution would be to ban those vehicles from the motorway at peak times. This would certainly be objected to by the Road Haulage Association and haulier companies, who would have to change routes and schedules if travel was restricted.

Speed an issue as capacity increased

The concern about air pollution and its relation to the speed of traffic comes as both motorways undergo carriageway improvements to increase capacity and reduce journey time. This is likely to become an issue in other parts of the UK motorway network as motorists and businesses demand better road systems, and local people become concerned about the effect of such work on the environment around them.

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