UK Highways Removes Lighting to Curb CO2 Emissions

LONDON, UK, August 12, 2011 (ENS) – The UK Highways Agency is switching off and removing motorway lighting to reduce carbon emissions and light pollution – and save money.

The agency will permanently shut off and take out motorway lighting on Bedfordshire sections of the M1 motorway, a north-south road in England that connects London to Leeds. This will reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, by lessening the electricity draw from the power grid.

“Following a careful assessment, analysis shows that the lights can be switched off on stretches of the motorway between junctions 10 (Luton) and 13 (Milton Keynes) without affecting road user safety,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

The motorway junctions and their approaches, and a section of the M1 on either side of junction 11 at north Luton, will have lighting columns replaced and remain lit.

The M1 motorway at junction 11, north Luton, where highway lighting will be removed (Photo courtesy UK Highways Agency)

Junctions which are already lit will remain lit throughout the night, even if the lights on the main carriageway are switched off and columns removed, the agency said.

“We anticipate achieving an annual reduction in carbon emissions on this M1 stretch of about 810 tonnes,” estimated Derek Turner, director for the Highways Agency. “Local communities will also benefit from reduced light pollution of the night sky.”

To date, the Highways Agency has switched off lighting at 14 sites on nine motorways across the country for a total of 47.4 miles where lighting is no longer used.

The most recent action came on March 30, when motorway lighting along a section of the M54 in the West Midlands began being switched off between midnight and 5am.

West Midlands Divisional Director for the Highways Agency Tim Harbot said then, “We are continually looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of operating the motorway network and this is another step in that direction, bringing the total number of sites on England’s motorway network to 14.”

“We expect these sites to work as successfully as everywhere else – achieving up to a 40 percent saving in carbon emissions and energy use as well as giving local communities reduced light pollution of the night sky,” said Harbot.

The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport that manages England’s motorways and other strategic roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

In fact, the agency’s new less-lighting policy fits in to the overall concept of “managed motorways.”

Since 2009, the agency has been experimenting with managed motorways, which use variable speed limits to relieve congestion; open up the hard shoulder as an additional traffic lane during busy periods; and also may limit access from on-ramps at peak times.

UK Highways Director Derek Turner (Photo courtesy BCS Oxfordshire)

“Managed motorways can also be operated unlit, without affecting their proven congestion-reducing and safety benefits,” the agency declared.

“Since 2009 we’ve switched lighting off between the hours of midnight and 5 am on 14 carefully selected stretches of motorways,” said Turner, “and evidence so far indicates that switching off the lights hasn’t had an impact on safety.”

“In March this year we also began permanently switching off motorway lights at three sites,” he said.

Sites where lights are switched off permanently are: M58 between Skelmersdale Junction 4 to Orrell Junction 6 (3.8 miles); M65 between Dunkenhalgh Park Junction 7 to Burnley Junction 10 (5.5 miles); M66 between Walmersley Junction 1 to Simister Roundabout Junction 4 (6.6 miles).

Currently, work is underway to upgrade 15 miles of the M1 between junctions 10 and 13 to a managed motorway, Turner said. Starting on August 17, the switch-off and removal of lighting columns will be carried out in phases until autumn 2012, alongside work to complete the managed motorways scheme.

A low-light CCTV camera system, which is able to operate without motorway lighting, will be installed so Highways Agency staff can monitor these M1 motorway sections 24-7.

The agency said its confidence in the safety of unlit motorways comes from analysis and observation. “Analysis carried out since the start of motorway lighting switch off suggests that driver behavior does not appear to have been affected in terms of traffic volumes and speed.”

Turner said, “This is not about wishing to remove all lights from the motorway network. It’s about carefully identifying the locations where, under the revised guidelines, we would no longer install lighting.”

“The money saved could then be used for other measures on the strategic road network where it would have a more significant safety benefit and potentially save more lives,” he said.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.