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DRIVING

What we know about France’s plan for city-centre congestion charges (and how much you could pay)

If France's transport minister gets her way, motorists may soon have to dig into their pockets in order to pay a toll to drive into France's largest cities and towns. This is what we know so far about the plan.

What we know about France's plan for city-centre congestion charges (and how much you could pay)
Could French cities be set for congestion charges like these seen in London and Milan? Photo: AFP
The French government has made its intentions clear, with Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne aiming to introduce London-style city centre tolls in a bid to keep pollution levels down in the country's largest towns and cities. 
 
“Today, the law already allows local authorities to set up tolls, but only for experimental purposes and for only three years, which is too short given the investments that would need to be made. The law must be remedied,” said Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne in January.
 
And it looks like the minister could be one step closer to making her dream of congestion charges come true, with the move included in a draft law on mobility revealed by French political magazine Contexte on Wednesday.  
 
The idea is that local authorities around France will have the choice of charging a vehicle an access fee in either all or some of the urban areas they are responsible for, with the charge collected as vehicles cross into the city. 
 
Vehicles stand in a traffic jam at the entrance of Marseille on January 10, 2018. Photo: AFP
 
All this will be with the aim of “limiting car traffic and fighting against pollution and environmental nuisances”, according to the draft law.
 
So how much will drivers be asked to cough up?
 
When it comes to urban areas with more than 100,000 residents, the rate will be no higher than €2.50 for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles however this figure could double for cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants. 
 
That means that motorists driving into cities like Paris and Marseille could end up paying €5. 
 
Naturally larger vehicles would end up paying even more. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
At the moment it has been suggested that they would have to pay a fairly hefty €20 to get into the biggest cities and €10 to get into cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. 
 
According to the draft law it would be up to local authorities to decide where exactly the congestion charge came into effect and they may also decide on “periods or situations in which the tariff is not collected”.
 
Rates could also be flexible, perhaps taking into account motorists who travel in and out of the city several times a day and it may even be free for residents. 
 
Automated controls, fixed or mobile, may also be introduced to ensure that drivers are coughing up the charge. 
 
This new congestion charge could also be combined with new low-emission zones where highly polluting vehicles are restricted or banned altogether.
 
By the end of 2020, these zones will be in place in around 20 cities in France, including Paris and the Greater Paris area but also Lyon, Grenoble and Marseille, suggesting that these cities will have a particularly tough police against traffic.   
 
Traffic jam in Bordeaux. Photo: AFP
 
However, even if tolls are known to reduce traffic congestion, pollution and encourage people to use public transport, the idea that there could be London-style “congestion charges” imposed in French towns and cities has naturally raised the alarm among French motorist groups.
 
“We know for a fact that some people cannot do without a car. So this will only create a segregation between those who will have the means to pay the toll and can continue to move safely, and those for whom this extra tax will be just too much,” said Pierre Chasseray, general delegate of the association 40 million motorists in January.
 
And it's not just motorist groups who would be against the idea of charging drivers to enter city centres.
 
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has declared her own war on the voiture in recent years, has already spoken out against the idea and refused to back the suggestion of a Paris congestion charge in October last year.
 
However since then the mayor of Paris seems to have modified her opinion on congestion charges, if only slightly. 
 
Traffic in Lyon. Photo: AFP
 
On Wednesday Hidalgo said that while Paris will not rush to introduce the charges, she is no longer totally against the idea as long as there was some way to avoid penalising households with a modest income.
 
Meanwhile, Toulouse has said it is totally against the plan but Marseille has not totally excluded the suggestion and in Lyon authorities have said that while they are against the congestion charge for residents, they could start charging visitors.

 
But it looks like the transport minister has a fight on her hands if congestion tolls are ever to see the light of day.

Member comments

  1. Yet another way for local authorities to make money.
    A congestion charge will not make one iota of difference. It will be just one more tax on motorists who need to use their cars.

  2. It should apply to passenger cars, but there should be a sliding scale for carpools and passengers. It should not apply to delivery trucks. Business is already so difficult in Paris.

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DRIVING

The law changes drivers in France need to know about in 2023

From petrol discounts and motorway tolls to low-emission zones and help to buy a greener car, here’s what’s changing for motorists in France in the next 12 months.

The law changes drivers in France need to know about in 2023

Petrol prices 

The French government’s €0.10 per litre discount on petrol and diesel ends on January 1st, and TotalEnergies’ discount-match at its fuel stations also finishes.

Motorists may be able to look forward to some help from the supermarket chain E.Leclerc, which also owns several petrol stations across France, after the head of the chain E.Leclerc, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, told BFM Politique on December 18th that the company would “make a gesture” to help motorists in France with rising fuel prices, but he did not provide any further details.

But the blanket discount will be replaced by targeted assistance for households on lower incomes who rely on their vehicles for work, with about 10 million workers expected to receive a one-off payment of €100.

To apply for the aid, you will need to register your details on the tax website. 

READ ALSO Who will get France’s €100 fuel hand-out and how?

Carpooling

The French government has unveiled a plan to encourage carpooling on Tuesday, offering drivers who register on carpooling platforms a benefit of €100.

Drivers will be able to register starting on January 1st, and the payment of €100 will be done in instalments – with a lump sum of “at least” €25 upon registration and then the remaining amount distributed over the course of 10 carpool journeys.

“Carpooling is a very effective lever for reducing our country’s fuel consumption in a sustainable way. It is good for the climate and good for the purchasing power of the French,” French environment minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told Huffpost.

READ ALSO French government announces €100 payment for those joining carpooling platforms

Motorway tolls

From February, motorway toll fees will rise by an average of 4.75 percent, after rising 2 percent in 2022.

The Transport Ministry pointed out that the 4.75 percent toll increase – announced in October – is “markedly lower” than France’s inflation rate of 6.33 percent. 

On some networks, electric vehicles will benefit from a five percent discount, while regular users – who make a minimum of 10 return journeys a month on the same route – may be eligible for a discount of 40 percent, up from the current 30 percent. Check with the motorway operator for details.

READ ALSO Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

Breakdown fees

No one wants to break down on the motorway, but if you do, you probably want to know how much getting your vehicle fixed will cost. The annual government-set charges are clear.

If your vehicle can be repaired at the side of the motorway in 30 minutes or less, you will be charged a government-set fee. A decree published in September 2022 indicated that the fee was to rise €131.94 in 2021, to €138.01, plus parts.

READ ALSO French motorway breakdown services cost rises

Extra help to buy electric vehicles

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in October an increase in the financial aid available for anyone who trades in a combustion engine car for an electric one from January 2023.

In a partial reversal on previous plans, under which the ecological bonus for trading in an older car for an electric model was set to fall, Macron said: “Because we want to make the electric car accessible to everyone, we are going to increase the ecological bonus from €6,000 to €7,000 for half of [France’s] households.” 

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: The financial aid available to buy an electric car in France

Electric car charge points

Since October 1st, electric vehicles parked in front of a public charging station must be connected and charging – drivers cannot simply use them as an extra parking space. Anyone who ignores the rule risks a fine of €58.

Crit’Air sticker extension and more fines for polluting vehicles

France’s environment minister announced in October a major extension of the city low-emission zones controlled by Crit’Air stickers, plus an increase in fines up to a maximum of €750. 

Between 2023 and 2025, 43 more French cities will create low-emission zones, on top of the 11 that already have them.

READ MORE: Crit’Air: Drivers face €750 fines in France’s new low-emission zones

The Crit’Air system requires all motorists – including the drivers of foreign-registered vehicles – going to any of the low-emission zones to get a sticker for their vehicle. The sticker assigns the vehicle a number from 0 (all electric vehicles) to 5 (the most polluting).

Some low emission zones will begin gradually banning more polluting cars. Paris, for instance, intends to ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles in July 2023, a move held back from July 2022.

READ ALSO Driving in France: How the Crit’Air vehicle sticker system works

Winter tyres

France introduced a law, the Loi Montage II (mountain law II), in 2020 making winter tyres, chains or socks compulsory in certain areas, which will finally come into effect in 2023.

The law makes either snow tyres, all-weather tyres or chains compulsory in 48 of France’s 96 mainland départements – generally those areas which are mountainous, with local authorities in those départements responsible for deciding where such rules will be applied.

READ ALSO Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?

Insurance

Drivers in France may not have to worry about the little green stickers that they attach to their windscreen (windshield) soon, after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced plans to scrap them in favour of a digitalised system set to start in 2023.

The goal, according to the finance minister, is to simplify the process for drivers and reduce costs.

French car insurers, like France Assureurs, have been pushing for the piece of paper to be scrapped for some time.

READ ALSO France announces plan to scrap vehicle insurance windscreen stickers

Roadworthiness test for motorcycles

After some back and forth, the French council of the state decided in October that motorcycles (two-wheeled vehicles) would also need to comply with “roadworthiness” testing starting January 1st, 2023. This is part of a decree passed by the French government in August 2021, and it specifically concerns two-wheeled vehicles registered to dates prior to 2016. The council of the state specified that the vehicles concerned are “motor vehicles with two, three or four wheels with a cylinder capacity of more than 125 cm3.” As of December 2022, the details regarding how this plan will be implemented were not yet available, so it is possible enforcement measures will be staggered, according to reporting by Auto-Moto.

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