Friday, September 18, 2020

News: 60mph speed limit on M1 in bid to cut pollution levels in Rotherham


Highways England has confirmed that it will trial 60mph speed limits on the M1 in Rotherham as action needs to be taken to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

The limits would be operational 24 hours a day instead of during peak times as they currently are.

The M1 smart motorway became operational in the region and open to traffic in 2017 with the section was designated as Britain's first ever Air Quality "Speed Limit" based motorway.

Highways England completed a £106m scheme on a ten mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 32 (south of Sheffield and Rotherham) and 35a (north of Sheffield and Rotherham), and a 20 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 28 (South Normanton) and 31 (Aston) in a project costing £205m.

The projects include converting the hard shoulder to an extra traffic lane in both directions and variable mandatory speed limits set daily between 7-9am and 3-6pm.

Now Highways England is proposing to introduce speed restrictions in various locations including between M1 junctions 34 (Meadowhall) and 33 (Catcliffe).

An update from the government agency said: "We are testing whether reducing the speed limit reduces NO2 levels. We will continually monitor this trial and if proven successful, the speed limit will remain in place until the area is compliant.

"The locations were identified as locations where NO2 levels exceed the legal limit annual mean limit level of 40 µg/m³.

"We have a duty to bring these locations into compliance with the limit value in the shortest possible time where feasible options exist. In these trial locations we expect that reducing the speed will lead to a reduction in emissions and accelerate compliance."

In 2014, the Transport Secretary put the brakes on the Highways Agency's (now Highways England) plans to implement a maximum mandatory 60mph speed limit. The speed limit would have been used between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

Highways England has confirmed that the speed limits will be operational 24 hours a day, adding: "We need to improve air quality at these location in the shortest timeframe possible. Emissions levels are calculated on an annual average basis, and so having the speed limits in place 24 hours a day will bring down the annual averages in the shortest timescale possible. Also vehicles travelling late at night often travel at higher average speeds resulting in high levels of harmful emissions. All vehicles emissions at any time of day contribute to the total."

Reduced speed limits are expected to have a "negligible impact" on journeys as the length of road covered by the limit will be less than 4.5 miles.

Rothbiz reported last week that, having been charged with coming up with local plans for reducing air pollution, Sheffield Council announced that it was delaying its proposals in order to review the possible impacts of COVID-19 on businesses, transport, and air quality.

Highways England website

Images: Highways England


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