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Motorway speed limit to be cut to 60mph on some roads

  Tuesday, 14 January 2014

New plans proposed by the Government will see motorway speed limits cut to 60mph, in order to limit air pollution near homes and schools.

The limit has been proposed for a 32-mile stretch on a section of the M1, following fears that pollution levels are damaging the health of nearby residents, while also in a bid to meet European Union (EU) targets for clean air.

The Government will then investigate the possibility of extending the restrictions across other areas of the country, with 13 other stretches of motorway potentially following suit. These plans come after the Coalition abandoned plans to raise the speed limit to 80mph, for fear it would risk road safety and alienate key voters.

Britain’s national speed limit is currently one of the lowest in Europe, behind 24 other nations; in Germany, there is no speed limit at all on autobahns.

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In 2011, then transport secretary, Phillip Hammond, suggested that raising the speed limit would have tremendous economic benefits by reducing journey times; however, research showed that it would lead to at least 18 more deaths a year, so the proposals were dropped.

“Any speed restrictions to improve air quality would only ever [be] considered as part of road improvement work and would not be appropriate for the vast majority of projects started this Parliament,” said Robert Goodwill, the roads minister.

“We are funding significant improvements to the road network. We need to ensure that as we invest we are alive to instances where there could be a negative effect on air quality.”

The AA is worried that a reduction in the speed limit could have wider implications for our national motorways:

“Our concern is how far this will spread, and whether the Government is effectively reducing speed limits by the back door,” said an AA spokesperson.

“Having to go to 60mph will be incredibly hard to enforce and a lot of drivers will think it is unjust.

“It is not just the emissions from cars that are causing the problems, it is the emissions from trucks, but it is the cars which will now have to slow down. Motorists are being penalised.”

The proposals have come about after the Government’s forecasts significantly underestimated pollution levels on some roads; strict EU guidelines could see significant fines imposed if nitrogen dioxide levels emitted by exhausts are breached.

Under the plans, emissions could be cut by introducing a 60mph speed limit between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week, from 2015, until cleaner air is developed.

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