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Peter Shakespeare says: “We need helpful intervention not bad”

The chair of the Parliamentary Freight Transport Group has issued a press release, rubbishing a EU driven proposal to cut pollution by imposing a 60mph speed limit on the 32-mile stretch of the M1 between junctions 28 and 35a.

Rob Flello MP said the proposal was ‘deeply flawed and would cause far more damage than benefit’.

He said:  “I can’t see BMW drivers from Bonn having to observe a speed limit on the autobahn and yet Mr and Mrs Smith from Leicester will be forced to trundle up the M1 at 60mph.”

Flello spoke out after the Highways Agency (HA) launched a consultation on the scheme. The HA claims the existing 70mph limit is having ‘adverse effects on air quality’ and that cutting it would reduce emissions.

It also said the new limit would deliver ‘reduced congestion, increased capacity and improved journey time reliability’.

The agency said the restriction would apply from 7am to 7pm all week and was likely to remain for ‘several years’.

In a letter to the Government, Flello said: “The proposed speed restrictions will increase congestion on this critical route, increasing air pollution and harming both the regional and national economy.

“They also fail to take into account the development of new engine technology which is making both private and commercial vehicles cleaner and more efficient.”

The MP, who represents Stoke-on-Trent South, said ministers should instead meet commercial vehicle manufacturers and focus on cutting congestion.

His concerns, backed apparently by much of the transport industry, are shared by the RAC, which has warned that they could ‘pave the way for similar restrictions on other sections of motorway’.

Meanwhile in Scotland, legislators have finally seen the light and have approved a hard fought bid – principally driven by the RHA – to trial a 50mph speed limit for HGVs on the single carriageway sections of the A9 between Perth and Inverness. Evidence from a similar exercise in New Zealand, presented to the Scottish Government by the RHA, showed that the increase from 40mpg improved road safety and reduced emissions.

We all know that once the speed limit signs are turned on managed stretches of motorways, everything grinds to a halt as the snake like traffic flow adjusts its speed. Everyone then vies for position, changes lanes and generates more congestion. The extra and unnecessary exhaust fumes being pumped out become palpable. The answer to maximum engine efficiency and low emissions is optimal engine temperature, constant revolutions and driving in a low gear. This is only possible if traffic is free flowing and not all bunched up at the same speed. Rob Flello is spot on when he suggests our legislators go and speak to the truck manufacturers for a lesson on automotive engine technology. After all they have just spent £billions on achieving the highest emissions standards possible.

Not only is this 60mph proposal a knee jerk reaction, it is dangerous. Once the speed and environmental Nimbies get hold of this they will be calling for a blanket 60mpg limit on all motorways. And the frightening thing is significant numbers of the ill informed public and press will support it.

Personally I would like to see the speed limit on motorways raised to 80mph, along with a national increase to 50mph on single carriage A-roads for HGVs. If the Government wants to do something really effective to reduce emissions from traffic, it should re-introduce the scrappage scheme for old vehicles – this time to include HGVs – and as Rob Flello says, invest in the infrastructure so the traffic keeps moving.

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