Proposals to implement a maximum mandatory 60 mph speed limit on a section of the M1 could herald the introduction of similar measures on other motorways.

The Highways Agency is seeking to cut the speed limit between junction 28 of the M1, near Matlock in Derbyshire, and junction 35A, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The motorway section is one of a new generation of so-called ‘smart’ motorways, where permanent use of the hard shoulder aims to solve traffic congestion.

However, the volume of traffic using the road at the 70 mph national speed limit means that Highways Agency officials are concerned at the impact on air quality. Under European Union guidelines, the Government could be fined hundreds of millions of pounds if emission levels are breached.

The Highways Agency in its consultation document said it was seeking to reduce the speed limit to “ensure that there is no significant adverse impact on local air quality” with houses and schools nearby. At 60 mph, the Highways Agency says traffic congestion will be reduced, which will smooth traffic flow and thus reduce vehicle emissions.

The Highways Agency plans to introduce the 60 mph speed limit in 2015 subject to the consultation exercise with it being in operation between 7am and 7pm seven days a week. It has also been reported that the plan to reduce the speed limit on the 32-mile stretch of the M1 could be the first of other similar moves as the Highways Agency introduces ‘smart’ measures on other motorways.