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French Autoroutes


First the good news - as from 2001 motorhomes were reclassified from class 3 to class 2 vehicles, this resulted in cheaper toll charges.  The limits for class 2 are 3.5t mplm and 3m max height.  The less good news is that you still have to pay to use motorways.  Although many Brits seem to find this unacceptable (and sometimes go to great personal inconvenience to avoid them), it may not be quite so unreasonable if taken together with the cost of diesel. In the UK a 700 mile journey like the one from Calais to the Spanish border would cost me 116 in diesel, in France the diesel will cost only 83 but the tolls will add about 60 if I avoid the most expensive routes near Paris but maybe as much as 100 if I get it wrong.  Against this I have to look at my journey times, am I in a hurry or not?

Some autoroute info gleaned from French sites...

See:  www.autoroutes.fr/index.php?lng=2  for an English version of the site and to download a tariff leaflet.

In the French system it is the users that pay for the motorway, hence not only the French but also foreigners, international truckers and tourists.  The toll levels are based on the cost of building and maintaining the motorway and the financial charges covering the period of the concession.  The motorway companies are not free to set their own charges.  They suggest them but they are actually controlled by the Ministry of Finance. Higher tolls are due to the substantial programme of opening new stretches, as well as rising costs and taxation.  However, over the last 20 years, charges have gone up more slowly than inflation.  The toll revenue is used on building new motorways, maintaining the existing network, and repaying loans.

The price reflects the cost of the motorway which of course varies considerably with the type of terrain and the technical difficulties of the project.  Some motorways cost much more than the average (6.7 million euros on level ground and 3 times more in the mountains, and up to 10 times more for a tunnel).  In addition, modern motorways cost much more owing to the constraints arising from the environmental regulations.  In 2001, the average tolls are 6.7 euro centimes per kilometre for cars and vans, and 18.2 euro centimes per kilometre for trucks.

The toll-free motorways in France are mainly urban motorways partly funded through local taxes, or interurban motorways in areas where the government wishes to stimulate economic development. This is a choice made by governments.  The northern European countries have decided to fund motorways through taxes, in other words by everybody regardless of whether they use the motorway.  However, some of these countries are considering introducing tolls, initially at least for trucks, owing to their financial difficulties.  The countries of southern Europe such as Spain, Italy and Portugal already use tolls.

In an open toll system, you pay the toll at each barrier without taking a ticket.  This means you are paying a flat rate charge.  In a closed toll system, you take a ticket as you enter the motorway and hand it in as you leave and make your payment.  The amount you pay is proportional to the length of your journey. There is no minimum toll that can be paid by credit card.  Also, most credit or professional cards are accepted.


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