Thursday, February 13, 2014

News: Transport leaders not convinced by 60mph M1 plan

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Rotherham Council and the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (SYITA) have both raised concerns regarding the Highways Agency's plans to implement a maximum mandatory 60mph speed limit between junctions 28 to 35a of the M1 motorway.

£300m transport schemes to reduce congestion and increase capacity on the M1 motorway through Rotherham are scheduled to start this year. They include plans for converting the hard shoulder to an extra traffic lane in both directions and variable mandatory speed limits.

The Highways Agency has said that environmental assessments carried out on these proposed managed motorway schemes showed there was likely to be an adverse impact on local air quality if the motorway continued to operate at the national speed limit (70mph).

Consultation is underway on proposals for a maximum mandatory speed limit of 60mph between junction 28 at Mansfield and junction 35a at Sheffield and Rotherham between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week, as part of improvements planned for the M1. The speed limit will be used to manage traffic speeds and help reduce congestion and air pollutants locally.

In response to the consultation, Rotherham Council stated that it did not consider that the 60mph limit was an acceptable measure to mitigate the impacts that the schemes could have on local air quality and is asking for more evidence on how the proposals would work.

Ian Ashmore, transportation and traffic manager at Rotherham Council, said: "The proposals for managed motorways seek to provide additional capacity on the strategic road network yet this proposal seeks to limit the growth, therefore there appears to be an inconsistency in approach.

"Detail is not provided particularly on why and how the proposal will manage traffic growth. If modelling demonstrates that there will be a negative impact on the local highway network [the transfer of traffic away from the M1] then the council wishes to register its concerns."

The council also believes that imposing the 60mph limit would restrict economic growth in Rotherham and the Sheffield city region and that speed limits should only be introduced at peak times. It also asks why it is necessary for a permanent reduction in the speed limit when speeds can be varied under the managed motorway schemes anyway.

At a recent meeting of the SYITA, the locally accountable body responsible for the strategic direction of transport planning and delivery, members agreed to submit a holding objection to the Highways Agency regarding the proposed 60mph speed limit pending clarification and resolution of the outstanding issues, particularly those affecting the environment and the potential impact on the local economy.

The authority also wants to find out what alternative mitigations have been considered and why they have been ruled out and asked for information about the potential effect of the proposals on the local economy and development aspirations.

Highways Agency website

Images: Highways Agency

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