M1 ‘pollution’ speed cut is a Mickey Mouse idea says MP

The M1 near Sheffield
The M1 near Sheffield
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AN MP has labelled plans to to cut air pollution on a busy stretch of the M1 near Sheffield including using piles of pollution-absorbing substances as “Mickey Mouse schemes which are bound to fail.”

It comes as Highways England considers imposing Britain’s first pollution-related speed limit on a stretch where UK and EU limits are regularly breached.

MP Clive Betts. Picture: Parliament TV

MP Clive Betts. Picture: Parliament TV

The motorway is upgrading this Spring to become four lanes in both directions, with an extra 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles using the hard shoulder, on top of the 130,000 already using the road.

Two years ago the Government scrapped plans for a 60mph speed limit between 7am and 7pm between junctions 28 to 35A, including Meadowhall and Tinsley. But it now appears the plan has been revived, but with the 60mph speed limit being imposed between 7am and 9am and 3pm to 7pm.

Another mitigation measure involving painting barriers with “catalytic paints” to remove air pollutants has failed, according to a letter sent to local MPs. But Highways England is reported to be putting out piles of nitrogen dioxide absorbing “mineral polymer” along the road. Mr Betts MP for Sheffield South East said: “The government has known about this problem but has still expanded the motorway.

“Now it is trialling these Mickey Mouse schemes which are bound to fail.”

Highways England said nothing had been decided.

However a letter to local MPs from Nick Harris, operations director for Highways England, said air quality mitigation for the MI scheme “envisages 60mph speed limits in the weekday morning (0700-0900) and evening (1500-1900) between junctions 28-35A.”

It added: “We are looking into initiatives that might avoid or reduce the need for these speed limits.”

One of the other options, painting barriers with “catalytic paints” to remove air pollutants had failed, but Highways England was putting out piles of “mineral polymer” which could absorb nitrogen dioxide along the road.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said he would be asking Transport Minister Chris Grayling questions.

He said the letter “seems to imply 60mph at rushhour”, adding: “I’m just not convinced - some scientists may prove me wrong - but it looks a bit optimistic to try and put some paint on barriers and hope this will mitigate the impact of thousands of extra vehicles.

“I think they have got nothing else that works - the only thing they are trying to do to mitigate it is to reduce the speed limit. If they are doing something else they certainly haven’t told me what it is.”

Leader of Sheffield Council Coun Julie Dore said air pollution had been a serious enough issue for them to move a primary school at Tinsley to another site. But she wanted to see evidence that “reducing speeds to a certain level would actually continue to maintain traffic flow. You wouldn’t want it to have a serious impact on the economy and jobs when it makes an insubstantial difference to air pollution.”

A spokesman for HE said: “There’s a range of solutions that could be used to address air quality issues and HE is currently working through the final details to assess which solution is the most appropriate to that section of the M1.”