UK continues its battle against air pollution from vehicles
The UK’s ongoing battle with air pollution, fuelled (for lack of a better word) by EU demands for stricter controls) has given rise to another controversial proposal, this one to lower the speed limit in order to improve the air quality around the M1. The current proposal would affect a 32-mile stretch from junction 28 in Derbyshire to junction 35a near Rotherham, lowering the speed limit on that section from 70mph to 60mph; the rest of the M1 from London to Leeds would still be 70 mph.
The government’s Highways Agency said that the restriction would be in force every day, from 7am to 7pm. Their statement also said that the reduced speed limit would lessen congestion and improve the “. . . journey time reliability” of the motorway for drivers. However, RAC noted that inevitably the reduction in speed would have a negative effect on business efficiency, i.e. drivers taking longer to get to work, etc.
The proposal under consultation would add the restriction on at least 13 other sections of roadway including part of the M3 in Surrey and others across the country. The Highways Agency did not specify how long the limits would be in place; presumably for several years. Their statement noted that conditions should improve as more energy-efficient, reduced-emissions vehicles come on the market and the volume of pollutants going into the atmosphere is lowered.
The plan has gotten a lot of criticism from drivers and other sources, chiefly on the basis that the intended reduction in air pollution will not amount to anything substantial and the slow-down will engender more congestion and accidents. The speed limits in Britain are already lower than many of the other EU countries including France, Spain, Italy and even Ireland. There is no limit at all on the autobahns in Germany.
Prior proposals to raise the speed limit from 70 to 80mph were scrapped, and the current roads minister, Robert Goodwill, says the reduced limits would be only temporary, though care must taken that new projects don’t contribute to worsened pollution.