Thursday 1 December 2016 9:17 am

Reduce motorway speed limit and ditch speed bumps to tackle air pollution, says UK health body

Why would a UK health body want the government to ditch speed bumps? According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), it's a great way to cut air pollution.

That's not all: a new report from Nice points to evidence from the Netherlands that slashing the speed limit to 50mph on motorways in urban areas is "highly cost-effective at reducing air pollution".

It says enforcing variable speed limits on major roads is fairly inexpensive as "only a limited number of speed cameras would be needed".

Read more: Sadiq Khan doesn't want the buck passed to him on air pollution

Vehicles create more emissions when they speed up and slow down, like on congested motorways, so to keep a more consistent speed, health officials suggested the limit being temporarily lowered to 50 or 60mph when traffic is stopping and starting.

In the recommendations, released today, Nice said some speed bumps encouraged people to accelerate then slow down, and suggested using average speed technology, which tracks vehicles over a set distance rather than capturing a snapshot of their speed, to promote safer driving.

The RAC Foundation said earlier this year that cameras measuring average speeds were monitoring drivers on more than 250 miles of Britain's roads.

Among the other proposals, Nice suggested cities with particular pollution troubles should think about bringing in clean air zones and the possibility of introducing congestion charge zones.

Read more: Heathrow unveils plans to tackle noise pollution

And parents didn't escape the health officials' hawk eyes either: they suggested "no-idling" zones should be brought in around schools to stop pesky parents lurking at school drop-offs with their cars running.

Air pollution is a contributory factor in about 25,000 deaths a year, according to Nice – about five per cent of all deaths.

Yesterday, London mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled the capital's first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus which will be trialled to help reduce emissions from buses. 

He wants all London buses to meet the Ultra-Low Emission Zone standard in 2020.