Motorway speed limits in the UK could be cut from 70mph to 60mph in a bid to reduce air pollution
Concerns have been raised that the amount of emissions a diesel car emits increases when vehicles are travelling at higher speeds.
Stretches of motorways with high levels of pollution could have the speed limits cut by 10mph.
The proposal was highlighted in the Government’s air pollution strategy which could see cars which do not meet the Euro 6 emissions standards face fines on the motorways.
It said: “New evidence also indicates that less than 1% of the strategic road network (motorways and major A roads) managed by Highways England could exceed statutory limits for NO2.
“The UK Government has considered potential measures to address exceedances on the strategic road network and has concluded that adjusting speed limits could be practicable.
“There is considerable uncertainty however on the real world impact of speed limits on NO2 concentrations and there is limited data available showing the impact of speed limit changes.
“Given this, there is a need to collect data from further monitoring in real world conditions, for example at sites where variable speed limits are used already for traffic management purposes, to understand better the likely impact that different speed limits might have on air quality in differing circumstances.”
In the air quality strategy the Government highlighted their plans to reduce air pollution levels in the UK.
There could be charging schemes implemented as deterrents but ministers have said that councils must consider all other alternatives before charge come into play.
There is considerable uncertainty
However, officials have said that charging is likely to have the “greatest impact” in bringing emissions down to safe levels.
Amongst the plans to improve air quality in the UK were the introduction of ‘Clean Air Zones’
Measures could be introduced to stop the highest polluting diesel cars from entering pollution hotspots across the country.
The Government are also considering the ‘appropriate tax treatment’ for diesel cars, which will be implemented within the next 12 months.
Local councils could pursue ‘alternative’ approaches to lowering emissions such as improving the flow of traffic by removing speed humps or sequencing traffic lights.
Older vehicles could be ‘retrofit’ to help reduce the level of emissions they emit.
Investment in Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles such as hybrid, electric and hydrogen is also being considered in a bid to reduce emissions.
The Government did not however provide details on a scrappage scheme for diesel cars.
Following the publication of the Government’s Air Quality plans, Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), said: “The Government’s long awaited plans simply aren’t good enough.
Cars emit higher level of emissions when travelling at higher speeds
“Despite standing on the cliff-edge of a national public health emergency, it looks like they would prefer not to upset the apple cart before an election rather than give us a plan that really tackles air pollution.”
“Clean Air Zones are being hailed as a solution and yet the trials of these zones in five cities have barely started and there are no outcomes to evaluate their effectiveness.
“Furthermore, there is no clarity on provisions for a diesel scrappage scheme and without a new clean air act, where is the regulatory framework to enforce standards?
“Air pollution is a national issue and although the Government says it will provide a structure, responsibility is left at the door of our already stretched local authorities with no clarity of where resources will come from.
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said ‘improving air quality is a key priority ‘
“These plans are weak and we urge as many people to respond to the consultation to put more pressure on the Government to step up their game before it’s too late.”
Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Improving air quality is a key priority as we support businesses in building a stronger and cleaner economy.
“Our plan today sets out how we will do just that – including presenting options for targeted diesel scrappage schemes.
“But in contrast to this common-sense way forward, Jeremy Corbyn’s only solution would be to hit you in the pocket with higher taxes.”