M1 speed limit cut still possible, Highways Agency admits
The agency says it is ‘rigorously investigating alternatives’ to a speed limit cut – but may be forced to bring in the lower limit.
The organisation has 18 months to come up with an effective way of mitigating extra air pollution caused by its £358 million ‘smart motorway’ scheme between junctions 28 and 35A.
The project will create extra capacity on the road by allowing the hard shoulder to used as a fourth running lane – but the move is expected to hit air quality and affect people living and working near to the road, particularly in Brinsworth, Tinsley and Blackburn.
A 60mph limit had been proposed between 7am and 7pm to cut pollution – but the idea was scrapped by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin after more than 90 per cent of motorists opposed the idea in a public consultation.
A Highways Agency report on the results of the public consultation said if no viable alternatives can be found, lower speed limits could be introduced ‘as a last resort and on the most limited basis possible’.
It said: “Any alternatives must provide the same degree of demonstrable and variable benefits as the imposition of the 60mph speed limit provides in mitigating poor air quality and so avoiding significant air quality impacts. ”
Andy Kirk, senior project manager for the Highways Agency, said alternative options are being examined as a matter of urgency.
He added: “We are working hard to find solutions. The minister did say that in the worst case if we do go down the speed limit route, it would only be at the shortest period or time and length of the network.
“Doing nothing is not an option. The road is getting more congested and will get worse.”