Motorway speed limits remain at 60mph to fight climate change... but there's NO PROOF it works

Parts of the M1, M6, M5 and M602 have had restrictions in place to help reduce emissions

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Campaigners are calling for an end for 60mph speed limits after it emerged the trials have continued for twice as long as they were originally proposed – without providing any evidence to support them.

Parts of the M1, M6, M5 and M602 have had air pollution speed restrictions in place to see if driving at 60mph, rather than 70mph, would help reduce emissions.

But motoring groups are now more concerned that the congestion caused by these limits have increased air pollution.

The imposed restrictions were only supposed to last between 12 and 15 months, but have now been in place for more than two years with no evidence shown to support whether they are effective.

Now motoring groups and a former roads minister are calling for National Highways to reveal their data or end the trials.

It was reported previously that the speed limits would help places in South Yorkshire, Manchester and the West Midlands meet pollution limits earlier than expected, but more than two years since the trials began no official data has been published, meaning frustrated drivers are still facing slower journeys.

Speaking to The Telegraph, former roads minister Sir John Hayes said National Highways should either show support for the trial or end the trial completely.

He said: “Air pollution is a real concern but the relationship between speed or traffic and pollution is complex. When you have congested traffic, emissions grow.

“It’s hard to legitimise the argument that the difference between 60 and 70 is significant in terms of emissions, but I’d be happy to look at the facts. They’ve got to either come up with the facts or concede that the scheme was not designed for its purpose.”

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Conservative chair of the Transport Select Committee, Iain Stewart, said he would take National Highways to task over the issue.

He commented: “I’ve got a general concern about having things that evolve by a creeping change without it being evidence based.

“I would certainly want to quiz them on what the data that they’ve established thus far has shown and whether that gives a justification for these speed restrictions to be made permanent.

“I wouldn’t be in favour of doing that without there being a strong evidence base.”

In a statement, the National Highways said the first results of the trials would be posted in the spring, and that the speed limit would be lifted if they have not worked.

A spokesman for National Highways: “As part of this process we are taking a series of actions such as lowering speed limits on some roads. Robust findings informed our decision and these 60mph limits will remain in place until the air quality has met legal limits and will continue to do so when the measure is removed.

“Given the complexity and amount of data needed, this requires appropriate time to complete all the stages of the analysis process. 

“National Highways is looking to produce initial reports on the performance of the real world 60mph speed limits in spring 2023.”