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60mph motorway plan canned

Transport secretary shelves plans to introduce 60mph blanket motorway speed limit on the M1 and M3.

A plan to reduce a 32-mile stretch of the M1 motorway has been shelved. Transport minister Patrick McLoughlin said another solution to improve air quality was needed, adding that blanket speed reductions “are not acceptable”.

The Highways Agency proposal was designed to reduce vehicle emissions between junction 28 of the M1 near Matlock in Derbyshire to junction 35a near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The plan was to introduce a 60mph maximum speed between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

Now the government will instead turn a section of the M1 and M3 in Surrey into a ‘smart motorway’, with variable speed limits and hard shoulder use helping ease congestion levels.

“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,” McLoughlin said.

“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,” he added.

The government predicts the use of a smart motorway system will improve journey times by 10 per cent at peak hours on the M1. The M3 motorway in Surrey, meanwhile, will see a 15 per cent improvement. The smart motorway scheme will begin in 2015 for the M1 and 2016 for the M3.

Critics of the lower limit were concerned lowering the speed limit would have an impact on ‘business efficiency and individual mobility‘. The AA argued the government should actually raise the speed limit because modern cars are more efficient, adding that enforcing a lower speed limit would be difficult.

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