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Motorway speed limit could drop to 60mph

Proposal to impose 60mph speed limit on stretch of M1 motorway announced.

The Highways Agency has announced plans to decrease the speed limit of the M1 to 60mph between junction 28 near Matlock in Derbyshire to junction 35a near Rotherham in South Yorkshire as part of a proposal to improve local air quality.

The Highways Agency believes lowering the speed limit will diminish the negative effect emissions are having on the health of residents who live along the 32-mile stretch of motorway. The 60mph limit will be in force between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week from 2015.

It said the benefits of the change would include “reduced congestion, increased capacity and improved journey time reliability for users of the motorway”.

The proposal, which forms part of an initiative to meet clean air targets set by the European Union, is under consultation. If successful it could be implemented on other motorways. Governments that fail to adhere to the EU guidelines could face hefty fines.

A number of organisations have expressed their concerns at changing the speed limit that has been in place since 1965. RAC technical director David Bizley told the Telegraph: “While preserving air quality is obviously a paramount concern there will inevitably be a negative impact on business efficiency and individual mobility.”

The Alliance of British Drivers said the change would have a negative impact on the UK and that the issue will solve itself. “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,” chairman Brian MacDowall commented.

AA president Edmund King was similarly displeased. “It is not just the emissions from cars that are causing the problems, it is the emissions from trucks, but it is the cars which will now have to slow down. Motorists are being penalised.”

King also noted it would be difficult for police to enforce the lower limit and that such a change could pave the way for other motorways to follow suit.

The highways agency said the 60mph limit will likely remain in place for “several years”. Critics have joked it would be amazing if traffic could actually reach that speed during peak travel times.

Another proposal put forward by the European Union would see new cars electronically restricted to 70mph.

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