Drivers in the UK may soon be faced with a longer commute to work after the government announced that it will soon cut speed limits on motorways to 60 mph. These cuts will be made near sections of motorway that are near schools and homes. The idea is that by lowering the speed limit, the government can cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution around schools and homes.
This new plan was announced by the Highways Agency. The reduction in speed will be most noticeable during a 32-mile stretch of motorway on the M1. The agency fears that pollution levels on this stretch of highway are too high and are damaging the health of some nearby residents. On top of that, the Highways Agency said that this new proposal will help the UK meet European Union clean air targets.
For now, this proposal is just limited to parts of the M1. However, government officials are not planning to stop there. In fact, they will meet soon to decide if this new proposal should be extended to other motorways, such as the M3 in Surrey. In total, they will meet and talk about the possibility of extending this new speed limit cut to motorways across 13 stretches of road. If these measures are approved, all speed limit cuts will become active as soon as 2015.
Of course, drivers are not happy about this speed limit reduction. In fact, Britain already has some of the lowest speed limits in all of Europe. Some of the countries that have higher speed limits include Italy, France, Spain and even Ireland. There is also Germany, where autobahns have no speed limits.
In 2011, the UK was considering raising the speed limit. Research done by the Transport Research Laboratory had found that by simply raising the speed limit, the UK could see hundreds of millions of pounds in benefits. This money would all be generated by shorter journey times. In the end, however, the fight to raise the speed limit was lost.
Patrick McLoughlin, who is the current UK Transport Secretary, said that the plan to lower speed limits to 60 mph is temporary. This speed reduction would only be considered as road improvement work. As a result, the restrictions in these areas would eventually be lifted.
What the Transport Secretary is saying is that the government will only keep these speed limits in place until the amount of pollution emitted by cars is lower. Once cars are all energy efficient and producing less pollution, there will be no need for such a speed limit reduction. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing just how far away such a future could be. It may be 10 or 20 years down the road, maybe even more.
For the time being, this reduction will help the government reach its European Union air pollution targets. Most experts seem to think that these reductions are being made to simply help reach these targets anyway. The idea that these changes are being made to protect the health of people in schools and homes in that area is just icing on the cake.