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Despite recent discussions over increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph, motoring organisations have warned that the government’s move to transform a stretch of the M1 to 60mph could lead to the whole country undergoing similar changes. The changes are being introduced as part of a smarter motorway scheme, and drivers on the 34 mile stretch of road will be restricted to the lower speed limit during the hours of 7am and 7pm. A number of other stretches of highly congested road have been earmarked for similar changes, and bodies like the RAC have warned that it may spread to every motorway in the country.

Motorway speed limits have been a topic of heated discussion for a number of years. Many drivers, and motoring groups, believe that the speed should be increased to 80mph in a bid to help ease congestion, to bring UK speed limits in line with other parts of Europe, and to account for improvements in modern motor vehicle technology and road safety. However, the government dropped plans to discuss such a move last year.

In a major turnaround, the Highways Agency has now said that a 34 mile stretch of the M1, which is known for being heavily congested, will have its speed reduced to 60mph. They say that this will help to combat emissions, and to ensure that the UK meets its European Union clear air targets.

The 70mph speed limit has been in force on British motorways since 1965, when cars and roads were not as safe, and also when vehicles emitted considerably more emissions than they do now. The RAC has said that they believe this is the first time that a speed limit has been cut in order to meet environmental targets, and they have also warned that the M1 is only likely to be the first of a number of motorways to suffer the changes.

The 60mph speed limit is being introduced as part of the Smarter Motorway scheme, which also sees the hard should being used as an additional lane in a bid to try and help ease the congestion that many road users experience. Lowering the speed limit is likely to increase congestion, negating the beneficial effects of hard shoulder usage.