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Minister claims M4 50mph limits successful in driving down pollution

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Enforcement on 50mph stretches of some of Wales’ busiest and most polluted motorways and trunk roads – including the M4 around Port Talbot, will kick in from 4 October the Welsh Government have said.

Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters said that the decision to introduce environmental speed limits to improve air quality levels in five locations across Wales in 2018 was the first of its kind in the UK, and demonstrates the Welsh Government’s commitment of putting the environment at the heart of everything it does.

The schemes have already been successful in significantly lowering the levels of nitrogen dioxide in affected areas by up to 47%, helping to protect people from serious illness as well as playing a part in tackling the climate emergency.

Air pollution is considered to be one of the largest environmental health risks of our generation, according to the World Health Organisation, increasing our risks of heart and lung disease and contributing towards the worsening of pre-existing health conditions such as asthma.

Welsh Government Minister, Lee Waters, a former chief executive of cycling organisation SUSTRANS said: “We’ve made significant progress in bringing emissions levels down in recent years, but we now have to go further and faster.

“We know that slower speed limits are not a popular choice, but we need to do things differently and be bold if we are to stand a chance of tackling climate change.

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“It’s clear that the speed restrictions we’ve introduced on our most polluted roads are working – the results speak for themselves – but compliance with these limits is essential if we are to achieve the reductions we need to make in the shortest possible time.

“We need to act now to make Wales a safe place to live with clean air for everyone.”

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Paul Biggs, environment spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD), said: “Speed cameras wouldn’t be necessary if speed limits weren’t set at an inappropriately low 50mph.

“The air pollution excuse is simply unfounded scaremongering given that a report by DEFRA shows NOx emissions have fallen by 72% and particulates (PM2.5) by 79% since 1970.

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“Longer journey times and increased congestion as a result of these measures won’t reduce vehicle emissions.”

South Wales Police, Roads Policing Lead for Wales, Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Travis commented: “The implementation of the 50mph speed limits, for environmental reasons, on some of Wales’s busiest roads is an important issue to tackle pollution and to give Wales and its communities a cleaner and healthier future.

“All four Welsh Forces are supporting its implementation, with the enforcement of these speed limits approached in a consistent, proportionate and transparent manner.”

GoSafe Partnership Manager, Teresa Ciano, added: “Driving at the posted speed limit has benefits for safety, but it can also improve our lives in other ways.  By supporting the Welsh Government’s ambition to improve air quality for Wales, we know our roads will be safer too.  By implementing a first of its kind advisory letter programme, we will be able to inform people of the importance of complying with the speed limit at these locations, whilst still prosecuting the most dangerous drivers.”

The roads which are affected by the 50mph speed restrictions and enforcement measure include:

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  • A494 Wales/England border to St David’s Interchange, Deeside;
  • A483 Junction 5 to Junction 6, Wrexham;
  • A470 Upper Boat Interchange to Bridge Street Interchange, Pontypridd;
  • M4 Junction 41 to Junction 42, Port Talbot;
  • M4 Junction 25 to Junction 26, Newport – a change from variable speed limit enforced by spot speed cameras to a permanent 50mph to be enforced by Average Speed Enforcement at a future date.

(Lead image: Geograph)

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