Motorway speed limits could drop to 60mph to improve air quality

A project that would ‘dynamically’ lower the speed limit to 60 mph on motorways when poor air quality is predicted in nearby towns or cities has won funding from Highways England.

Highways England, who manage 1865 miles of motorway and 2571 miles of major A roads in England, has awarded £20m of funding to eleven projects in total to tackle air pollution, including a scheme to develop ‘off-grid’ electric vehicle (EV) charging and a tool that uses artificial intelligence to visualise NO2 emissions on a particular route.

Amey, who is running the motorway speed management project also won funding for a project that aims to improve air quality by reducing the number of stop-starts when leaving motorways, where vehicles are using inclined off-slips at signalised junctions.

Stop-starts of freight vehicles, including hill starts, significantly increase fuel consumption, brake wear and emissions.

The project will employ a technique known as Green Light Optimised Speed Advisory (GLOSA), which informs drivers when traffic lights will change, recommending a speed to approach the signals without stopping.

Mike Wilson, Highways England’s executive director for Safety, Engineering and Standards, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to offer this funding to support ideas around connected vehicles and infrastructure, improved safety, design and construction that reduces cost and delivers more predictable journey times – and to improve air quality.

‘The competitions opened the door for companies to submit some great entries to us – it was challenging to narrow it down to the final few.

‘We think the competitions have been a great success, which we will consider repeating in the future.’

The full list of entries that will receive funding, subject to contract negotiations, is below:

  • Dynamic air quality management – Amey OW limited
  • Network Emissions/Vehicle Flow Management Adjustment – Aimsun Limited
  • Green Light Optimised Speed Advisory – Amey OW limited
  • Showcasing artificial intelligence – Clytell UK Limited
  • Feasibility of a tool to assess air quality impacts of elevated roads – Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants Ltd
  • Clean efficient off-grid electric vehicle charging – Intelligent Power Generation Limited IPG
  • Simplifai integrated corridor management – Simplifai systems limited
  • Biotecture active airflow living wall – Biotecture
  • Incentivising drivers to lessen emissions – RBD holdings limited
  • Motorway charging using thermo-mechanical energy storage – Cheesecake energy Ltd
  • Flywheel fast-charging station – Gyrotricity LTD

Read more detailed information on the winners here.