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Blog: Will a 60mph speed limit save planet or cause congestion?

A plan to cut the speed limit on the M1 to 60mph to reduce carbon emissions might help the environment – but will it cause gridlock misery for motorists?

I consider myself an environmentally friendly person.

I happily recycle my rubbish, turn off unused electrical appliances in my house and moan at family members who don’t do the same.

So a scheme to cut pollution on our motorways should be right up my street.

The Highways Agency has proposed introducing a speed restriction along 34 miles of the M1 to help reduce carbon emissions in the area.

M1 60mph speed limit proposed

The proposed 60mph speed limit would affect drivers between junction 28 at Mansfield and junction 35a for Sheffield and Rotherham from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

With my Captain Planet hat on this seems like a positive step forward in the fight to reduce our carbon footprint.

However, will cutting our speed by 10mph really make that much of a difference?

According to the Highways Agency it will.

Environmental tests on the planned 60mph stretch showed there was likely to be an adverse impact on local air quality if the motorway continued to operate at the national speed limit.

This is because vehicles produce more emissions at higher speeds.

Variable speed limits on motorways

Motorway traffic

Many motorways in the UK already impose variable speed limits on overhead gantries in response to driving conditions.

These so-called smart motorways also make the hard shoulder available to traffic and are controlled by a regional control centre.

I've often felt irritated by these reduced speed limits which appear to have no obvious purpose once you reach the end of them, with the slower speeds clogging up the road.

More often than not in these situations, drivers' constant adjustment of their speed and increased jostling for the "best lane" seems to cause congestion.

Misery on the motorway

And we’ve all endured the painful experience of gridlock on our motorways.

David Bizley, technical director of breakdown service company the RAC, has expressed concerns about the plans.

"If this becomes reality for the 34-mile stretch of the M1, which seems highly likely, it could pave the way for similar restrictions on other sections of motorway," he says.

"While preserving air quality is obviously a paramount concern there will inevitably be a negative impact on business efficiency and individual mobility."

public consultation on the government's M1 60mph proposal will finish on 3 March so make sure you have your say.

The consultation is aimed at affected groups such as local authorities, transport associations and emergency services but is open to everybody to respond.

Meanwhile, road safety organisation the Institute of Advanced Motorists is conducting a poll about the M1 60mph proposal.

What do you think?

Would you be happy to cut your speed to save the planet? Or do you fear the plans will only cause congestion?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below.

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Alex Cinus

Alex Cinus

Alex Cinus is a reporter at He started out writing for newspapers in Monmouthshire and Newport before moving to Italy to teach English. After four years in Sardinia he joined the team at

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