M1 go-slow plans scrapped

Junction 29a of the M1 at Markham Vale
Junction 29a of the M1 at Markham Vale

A bid to put the brakes on M1 motorists by slashing the speed limit to 60mph through Derbyshire has been thrown out by the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

He branded plans to reduce air pollution by cutting speeds on a stretch of the motorway through the county as ‘not acceptable’, and said they would not be enforced.

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.”

Plans to limit speeds from 7am to 7pm between junctions 28 and 31 and junctions 32 to 35a were slammed by business leaders and commuters when the Highways Agency put them out to consultation in January.

Chris Hobson, head of information and representation at the Chamber of Commerce for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, welcomed Mr McLoughlin’s decision after the chamber formally opposed the plans.

He said: “We’re delighted that the Transport Secretary has blocked these proposals. There was an overwhelming response from local firms to the consultation and the majority of them said it would have had a detrimental impact on their business, so it is good to see their views have been heeded.”

The news was celebrated across social media last night, with people taking to the Derbyshire Times’ Facebook site to voice their approval.

One user, Dave Longden, said: “Finally common sense has prevailed”. Another, Andy Collier, added: “Well seeing as most of the accidents on the M1 lately have happened since the roadworks and the 50mph speed limit has been there, I think it’s a good idea.”

The announcement comes as work starts on a £345m project to transform the same stretch into a ‘smart motorway’. Smart motorways convert the hard shoulder to a running lane to reduce congestion, operating either permanently or during busy periods.

Mr McLoughlin, the MP for Derbyshire Dales, added: “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.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “These schemes will boost capacity by a third and improve journey times up to 10 per cent through the M1 schemes.

“The Highways Agency previously consulted on proposals to limit speeds to 60mph between 7am and 7pm 7 days a week because of the potential effect of the new schemes on local air quality.

“However, the Transport Secretary has rejected this approach as the government’s preferred option for managing the problem and has instead asked the Highways Agency to rigorously investigate alternatives as work progresses on the schemes in the next 12 to 18 months. If any proposals continue to include varying speed limits, they must only apply when absolutely necessary.”