Plans to reduce M1 speed limit to 60mph rejected

M1 roadworks looking north towards junction 30
M1 roadworks looking north towards junction 30
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Plans to reduce the speed limit on the M1 have been scrapped by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The Highways Agency carried out a public consultation earlier this year on whether the speed limit should be dropped to 60mph between junction 28 at Mansfield and junction 35A at Sheffield and Rotherham.

It was intended the lower limit would have been introduced next year and run between 7am and 7pm each day in a bid to reduce air pollution.

But Mr McLoughlin said today the change will not be happening.

He said: “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.”

The announcement comes as work starts on transforming the M1 between junctions 28 to 35A into a ‘smart motorway’. Work on transforming the road - which will be broken into separate sections between junctions 28 to 31 in Derbyshire and junctions 32 to 35A in South Yorkshire - is expected to cost up to £354 million to complete.

Smart motorways convert the hard shoulder to a running lane to reduce congestion, operating either permanently or during busy periods.

Overhead variable message signs inform motorists of changes in speed limits, queuing and lane closures, while staff in regional control centres will be able to use CCTV to monitor incidents and keep motorists safe.

Mr 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.”

It is intended the M1 will be transformed into a smart motorway by autumn 2015.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “These schemes will boost capacity by a third and improve journey times up to 10 per cent through the M1 schemes.

“The Highways Agency previously consulted on proposals to limit speeds to 60mph between 7am and 7pm 7 days a week because of the potential effect of the new schemes on local air quality.

“However, the Transport Secretary has rejected this approach as the government’s preferred option for managing the problem and has instead asked the Highways Agency to rigorously investigate alternatives as work progresses on the schemes in the next 12 to 18 months. If any proposals continue to include varying speed limits, they must only apply when absolutely necessary.

“In particular, the Agency must look for alternatives that maintain the 70mph limit wherever possible, particularly when traffic tends to be lighter, such as at weekends and outside of peak commuting hours.

“In the meantime, as with all smart motorways already in successful operation, the Highways Agency will take the necessary legal powers to enable them to vary the speed limit from the routine 70mph at certain times.”