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© Copyright Steve Fareham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Steve Fareham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The debate over the Motorway Speed Limit rages on, with drivers on a section of the M1 being warned that, in an attempt to try and attack pollution, there are plans to introduce a 60mph speed limit between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

And this could well spread to other motorways in the future, according to a report on Sky News.

The Highways Agency has revealed that a 34-mile section of the M1 between Junction 28 at Matlock in Derbyshire and Junction 35a for Sheffield, South Yorkshire, is the area of high emissions where the motorway speed limit is being introduced – and for seven days a week, not just at times of high usage!

It is obviously a bit of a surprise when rumours have been around and investigations undergoing about RAISING the motorway speed limit to 80mph to bring it into line with other European countries, and it seems a bit ironic that the reason for the LOWERING of the speed limit is due to a European Union directive.

The EU has set clean air targets, and the fact that this particular stretch of motorway is considered to be one of the highest for emissions has resulted in the change, with motoring organisations warning that this move is the “thin end of a very large wedge" with a number of other stretches of motorway across the country earmarked to see similar cuts in the limits from 2015.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: "This is a landmark proposal as to the best of our knowledge motorway speed limits have not previously been lowered in order to comply with environmental legislation. If this becomes reality for the 34-mile stretch of the M1, which seems highly likely, it would certainly negate some of the current benefits of operating this section as a 'smart' motorway where motorists are allowed to use the hard shoulder to reduce congestion.

"More worryingly, it could pave the way for similar restrictions on other sections of motorway. While preserving air quality is obviously a paramount concern there will inevitably be a negative impact on business efficiency and individual mobility."

Part of the proposals that are incorporated in what the Highways Agency call a “smart motorway system” is to see vehicles using the hard shoulder as an extra lane to try and ease the congestion that is pretty much the norm on certain motorways at certain times, whatever the motorway speed limit.

But there are voices out there continuing to call for higher motorway speed limits, not only to bring the UK into line with other European countries, but also to ease congestion and speed up travel times.

The Alliance of British Drivers is one such campaign group, and its Chairman, Brian MacDowall, had much to say on the subject of the proposed reduction: "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."

Decisions will be made after March 3 when the consultation ends – but the arguments will rumble on.