Smart motorway labelled ‘cash cow’ after raking in millions

Richard Aucock, ContributorThu, 22 Feb 2024

An 18-mile smart motorway stretch of the M1 has netted more than £8000 a day for the past four years in fines from motorists – including millions made from a controversial speed limit cut to ‘lower pollution’.

Total fines across the stretch of motorway in South Yorkshire totalled almost £12 million – or £8164 a day.

Almost 120,000 fines were issued to motorists who broke all speed limits, from 70mph down to 30mph, and also ignored ‘red X’ lane closures.

The ‘money-making’ stretch of motorway was between junction 30 and 35a.

The Freedom of Information request to South Yorkshire police has also discovered a staggering 22,546 motorists were fined over a four-year period on a mere 2.6-mile stretch of the motorway, between junctions 33 and 34 near Sheffield and Rotherham.

National Highways lowered the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph in 2020 as part of the pollution-reducing trial.

Reports say that if all the fines were paid in full, this trial alone would have made the Government more than £2.25 million.

The Daily Telegraph asked National Highways director of environmental sustainability Stephen Elderkin whether the 60mph trial had actually improved air quality.

“We are working hard to finalise the analysis of the vast amount of data collected,” he said. “We will be publishing the reports in due course.”

Over the four-year period, more than 41,000 fines were issued for 60mph speed limit contraventions where limits were in place on the 18-mile stretch.

Less than 25,000 fines were issued for motorists exceeding the 70mph speed limit across the same 18-mile stretch of M1 motorway. The 60mph speed limit to ‘lower pollution’ remains in place.

Ask HJ

Are average speed cameras accurate?

I travel through both inner and outer London boroughs and several cameras are in 20mph zones. However the other week I noticed a camera (the older style GATSO yellow one) with no speed markings on the road so have assumed it is decommissioned and another cameral marked as a 20mph speed camera at a set of traffic lights which doesn’t go off if you drive through at a faster speed which means it is a traffic light camera and only activates when you go through it on a red light. Have set off two sets of cameras a while ago without receiving any notification. I think one possible answer is that once the local authorities have the money they will make a massive upgrade to all the existing cameras and replace them with the new generation of digital two-way models. Until that time we are probably safe. Also in my local area we have sections of dual carriageway monitored by average speed cameras set at 40mph. Do you know if they can set them for lower speeds? I have a feeling that this cannot be done accurately.

The situation regarding deactivated speed cameras is unhelpful for drivers with the potential to cause confusion. The majority of average speed cameras operate on a time and distance calculation, so in theory will be highly accurate. Rather than being adjusted for lower speeds, it is more a matter of the constabulary deciding at what speed they will decide to issue fines.

Answered by David Ross

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