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Motorway lights to be turned off at midnight to cut costs and carbon

The Highways Agency is to begin switching off motorway lighting after midnight in a bid to cut costs and reduce its carbon footprint after ruling the move will not impact on safety.

Motorway lighting at two sites in the south west will be switched off between Midnight and 5am in a trial move to reduce carbon emissions and light pollution.

Lighting on the M4 between Junctions 21 and 22 near Bristol will be switched off from Midnight until 5am from the morning of Thursday 26 March, and lighting on the M5 between Junctions 29 - 30 near Exeter is set to be switched off from Midnight until 5am from Thursday 16 April. The motorway junctions will remain lit.

Both motorway stretches have a good safety record and very low traffic flows between Midnight and 5am, and have been chosen for first phase of the Highways Agency’s programme after careful assessment.

“We are looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint of operating the motorway network and this is one step in that direction,” said Highways Agency chief highway engineer Ginny Clarke.

“We expect up to 40% savings in carbon emissions and energy use for each section of motorway where we do this, and local communities will benefit from reduced light pollution of the night sky.

“The traffic flows are so low in the early hours that when taken together with the good safety record of the sites, there would be no case for installing new lighting if the decision was based on the overnight figures alone.”

The Agency said if successful the trial will be rolled out to further sections which have low traffic flows and a good safety record during these hours.

Although less than half of the motorway network is lit, road lighting is one of the greatest contributors to the Highways Agency’s operational carbon footprint.

Lighting of motorways has traditionally been justified as a measure to improve road safety. However, with the extremely low traffic flows at this time of night, the value of having lighting on the motorway has been judged to be outweighed by the environmental impact and cost of providing the lighting. The Agency believes that almost all the safety benefits from motorway lighting occur outside the midnight to 5am period.

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