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New driving laws will see speed limits reduced across four sections of road in a dramatic bid to cut down on air pollution levels. However, the new policy could cause congestion on a set of popular routes which could delay journeys for road users.
Highways England says just four locations will be used in the trial with a selection of bust motorways selected.
Each speed restriction will operate for a distance of 4.5miles before returning to national or local speed limits.
New speed restrictions will come into effect between junctions six and seven on the M6 near Witton as part of the pilot.
Junctions 34 to 33 on the M1 near Rotherham will also be affected alongside junctions one and two on the M5 near Oldbury.
The final route set to be affected will be between junctions one and three on the M602 near Eccles.
The roads were selected in areas where pollution levels were considered higher than they should be.
Highways England says sections of roads were “identified as exceeding” nitrogen dioxide limits.
The agency has confirmed the new plan will be in effect 24 hours a day and seven days a week to measure the effects on pollution levels.
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They confirmed drivers caught breaking the rules would face enforcement penalties but that this was a matter for the police.
A Highways England statement said: “Emissions limits are measured on annual average figures and so the restrictions will be in place around the clock in order to improve air quality.
“These speed limits will not impact on larger commercial vehicles which are limited to 56mph.
“The reduced speed limits will be assessed after 12 months to see if they are having an impact or if the air quality level is compliant.”
The trial will be reviewed in one year’s time to look at the impact the changes have had on pollution rates in affected areas.
Some early estimates show the new limits could cut emissions by up to 17 percent which could be a major success
Highways England has said that restrictions could be lifted in just 12 months if the changes were not having the “desired impact”.
However, Ivan le Fevre, head of environment at Highways England said the restrictions could stay in place until a considerable shift to electric cars has been made.
He said: “We have a duty to tackle air quality around our network and as part of this we are trialling 60mph speed limits on short sections of our network where action needs to be taken.
“Ultimately the air quality challenge will be solved ‘at the tailpipe’ by vehicle manufacturers and changes in vehicle use.
“Until this happens we will continue our extensive programme of pioneering research and solutions.
“The speed limits trial will stay in place until the shift to cleaner vehicles means we can remove the restrictions and maintain cleaner air.”
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