Government plans to impose a permanent 60mph speed limit on parts of the M3 and M1 motorways to cut pollution have been put on ice, at least for the time being.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has given the Highways Agency 18 months to find alternative ways to tackle pollution on a 32 mile stretch of the M1 in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire and 2.8 miles of the M3 in Surrey.
If none can be found a 60mph limit could still be imposed at peak times.
He has however ruled out a blanket cut in the speed limit.
Construction is about to begin on converting two sections of the M1, between junctions 28 and 31 in Derbyshire and junctions 32 and 35a in South Yorkshire, and on the M3, between junctions 2 and 4a to so-called “smart motorways” which allow hard shoulder running either permanently or at busy times.
The speed limit can be varied or lanes closed in emergencies through the use of overhead message signs.
The government claims that smart motorways will increase capacity by a third and improve journey times.
Mr McLoughlin has said the government is committed to maintaining the 70mph limit on motorways, particularly at weekends and other periods when traffic was lighter.
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.
“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.”
The proposed cut to the speed limit on the M1 was rejected by a staggering 93% of people who took part in an online consultation. It was also strongly opposed by businesses and even local authorities. The M3 consultation has not yet been published.
Call us on 0808 231 3908