60mph speed limit for some UK motorways

Some sections of motorway will have their speed limits cut by 10mph as part of a trial scheme to lower vehicle emissions

Speed limit to be cut to 60mph on M1

Parts of the UK motorway network will have their speed limit reduced from 70mph to 60mph as part of a trial scheme looking at reducing vehicle emissions.

The Highways England project will examine what effect slowing the maximum speed of motorway traffic by 10mph has on air pollution in the surrounding areas. The lower limits will remain in place for at least 12 to 15 months, displayed on roadside signs and enforced 24 hours a day. Drivers carrying on at 70mph will risk a £100 fine and three penalty points on their licence.

The 60mph limit will be trialled on the M1 (between junctions 33 and 34), the M6 (between junctions six and seven), the M602 (between junctions one and three) and the M5 (between junctions one and two). Each of these stretches is roughly 4.5 miles long and the scheme could be expanded if deemed a success.

The speed limit reduction scheme is being put in place as a response to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), with up to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK being linked to poor air quality every year. Motorway traffic has risen by nearly a quarter in the last two decades and the Chancellor has set aside £27 billion to upgrade the UK’s Strategic Road Network (SRN) of motorways and major A roads before 2025.

There are 101 parts of the SRN that the Government has identified as potentially exceeding NO2 limits. These tend to be short stretches between junctions next to towns and cities.

Lower limits similar to those seen in this new scheme have already been implemented on sections of the M32, A1, M4 and M621. Highways England is also testing emissions barriers to prevent pollution from roads reaching nearby residential areas.

Ivan Le Fevre, head of environment at Highways England, told the Times - which broke the story - that the public body would continue its “programme of research and solutions” until such time that road pollution is solved “at the tailpipe by vehicle manufacturers”.

The local Green Party has also launched a campaign pledging to tackle air pollution, but the DfT says it is committed to reducing air pollution and cutting emissions through green transport schemes, promoting low-emission vehicles, and clean air zones. There's no word on whether Sheffield will be one of these zones, however the city council did carry out a feasibility study in 2012 which did not lead to one being created.

Now read our guide to speed awareness courses...

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