In an effort to reduce high levels of air pollution produced by vehicles, Highways England has taken action to decarbonise major motorways and A-roads by implementing a 60 miles per hour limit in certain areas across England.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, transport emissions had dropped massively in Britain because of reduced traffic – but have then since increased due to governmental changes to restrictions and travel limitations.
In 2019, an investigation was conducted by Highways England to test the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) across 101 of England’s major motorways and A-roads against lowering speed limits.
Subsequently, from the initial investigation, a large-scaled programme has been set into action by Highways England to put roads at the centre of Britain’s 2050 carbon neutral target.
The outcome from the initial investigation, the report published by Highways England in late July 2021, identified that the air quality in at least 30 areas in England were way above accepted NO2 guideline levels – some considerably exceeding the limit of 40 micrograms (µg) per cubic metre.
Therefore, the organisation has implemented a scheme to trial motorways with a maximum of 60 mph speed limits in certain stretches of England’s motorways and A-roads.
According to scientific research, high levels of NO2 emissions are linked to multiple respiratory problems, and poor air quality has significantly caused around 40 000 premature deaths each year.
The new 2021 Highways England roadmap has identified the crucial areas that have been the most affected by NO2, and now large sections of nine motorways will be at a new speed limit of 60mph, rather than the usual 70mph – as the initial research showed lowering the speed limit was effective in reducing emissions by 1 to 3 µg/m³.
With no published date for when the 60 mph limit will end, we will certainly expect more sections of England’s A-roads and motorways to also see speed limitations.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean agreed that transport is one of the “biggest emitters of carbon emissions” and believes the roadmap set out by Highways England will help substantially to the Build Back Greener campaign.
Achieving the net-zero objective has become a global effort, in which Highways England have tasked themselves to meet the following deadlines:
Meanwhile, Highways England has also been working to boost the purchase of zero-emission vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars and vans.
This push is in support of the British Government’s movement to stop selling new, conventional petrol and diesel vehicles before 2030 to achieve their net-zero goal.
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