6 Jan 2014.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Motorway Madness from the Highways Agency
The Alliance of British Drivers rejects a Highways Agency proposal to reduce the motorway speed limit on more than 30 miles of the M1 in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.
The Highways Agency (HA) has begun a consultation 1 on reducing the motorway speed limit to 60mph on the M1 between junctions 28 (South Normanton) and 35A (north of Sheffield), a distance of around 31 miles. The stated reason is to improve air quality in the vicinity of the motorway and prevent concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulates from exceeding EU standards, which could lead to fines being imposed. In fact, most of the motorway south of Sheffield passes through predominantly rural areas, and it is only the section that runs between Sheffield and Rotherham, from junctions 33 to 35 (about 6 miles) that comes close to a large urban area.

The HA has already proposed that the M1 between junctions 28 and 35A should have its traffic capacity increased by implementing 'managed motorway' measures, which would include using the hard shoulder as a permanent running lane. Yet part of the reason for the proposed speed limit reduction is to discourage more drivers from using the motorway to take advantage of the reduced congestion! Indeed, the HA states that without the reduced maximum speed limit, the managed motorway schemes may be delayed or abandoned altogether, as the increased traffic levels could cause the EU's air quality targets to be exceeded.

It should be obvious that a reduction in the speed limit from 70 to 60mph will have a negligible impact on air quality. With the hard shoulder in use as a running lane, lanes 1 and 2 of the four lanes in each direction (i.e. the former hard shoulder and 'slow' lane) will be occupied mostly by heavy goods vehicles, coaches and those drivers of light vehicles who are travelling below 70mph anyway. Heavy vehicles, which produce the greatest quantities of nitrogen dioxide and particles, are already limited to speeds below 60mph, so their emissions will be unaffected. Most of the vehicles travelling at 70mph will be in lanes 3 and 4, closest to the central reservation and furthest from any roadside development.

ABD chairman Brian MacDowall comments:
“Motorways are the main transport arteries of the nation and are vital to the economy. The Government should be raising motorway speed limits, not reducing them. Air quality is important, but it has improved massively in recent years and will continue to do so, as newer, cleaner vehicles replace older ones. The EU's air quality targets must not be used as an excuse to reduce speed limits or abandon vital road improvement schemes. If this proposal goes ahead, it will be the thin end of a very large wedge. It should be scrapped immediately.”

1. HA Consultation
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