Motorway speed limit reductions could help to fight air pollution

Motorway speed limits could be reduced when air pollution is at its highest if a new air quality initiative comes to fruition.

The dynamic air quality management project is one of a number of initiatives that have been given funding by the government to tackle local air quality.

It would rely on a network of nitrous oxide sensors near the motorway that could be read by a system that would implement speed limit reductions. By reducing the average vehicle speed the amount of harmful pollutants emitted by traffic would also be reduced.

Amey OW Limited, the company behind the system, also received funding for technology that could advise motorists of the correct speed to approach traffic lights to hit a green light and avoid stopping. This would help to reduce emissions, fuel consumption and brake wear, which can be particularly high on motorway off-slips that are often on an incline.

The winners have been announced after Highways England launched two competitions worth up to £20 million in funding to inspire companies to come up with innovative new ways for the UK’s road network to be designed, managed and used.


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.”

Other ideas that have received funding include a ‘living wall’ of plants along major roads that can suck up and purify polluted air, eco-friendly and off-grid energy storage for electric vehicle chargers, and a next-generation fast-charging network.