Government plans announced early this year to reduce air pollution caused by vehicle emissions by reducing the speed limit on a 32-mile stretch of the M1 have been shelved.
The proposals involved lowering the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph, from junction 28 of the M1, near Matlock in Derbyshire, to junction 35a, north of Rotherham.
But Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin will announce later today that blanket reductions of speed limits are not the answer, and alternative solutions to improving air quality must be found.
“Let me be absolutely clear, I want all motorways to run at 70mph. While it sometimes makes sense to use variable limits to keep people moving, blanket reductions are not acceptable.”
Instead, work has started to make this stretch of the M1 (as well as part of the M3 motorway in Surrey) into a smart motorway, using the hard shoulder to ease congestion at peak times. Smart motorways have already been introduced in other motorways in the UK – including the M6, M25 and other sections of the M1.
“Smart motorways are an effective and cost efficient way of increasing space on our roads, cutting jams and speeding up journey times and I am pleased to announce the start of work on these schemes.”
Smart motorway schemes allow drivers to use the hard shoulder as an extra lane, with CCTV used to monitor the traffic and overhead signs used to control speeds and inform drivers which lanes to use.
The government predicts that journey times will be improved by up to 10% through the M1 schemes and 15% on the M3, where average speeds are currently 45mph during rush-hour.
The M1′s smart motorway scheme should be in operation from autumn 2015, with the M3 following from 2016. They’re part of the government’s £24 billion investment in the road network by 2021.