How France plans to improve transport links in rural areas

The French government will unveil a bill on Monday which aims to improve public transport links in rural parts of the country where people are forced to use their cars due a lack of public transport. Here's how the government plans to do it.

How France plans to improve transport links in rural areas
Photo: AFP
French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne was set to present the bill which will propose measures to create more and cleaner public transport options in areas of rural France where people are currently left with little choice but to use their cars – if they can afford one that is. 
It is hoped that the announcements will go some way to help quell the anger of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) motorists who have recently been protesting the rising fuel taxes in France as well as falling spending power.
Since January, the price of petrol has shot up by 15 percent while diesel prices have gone up by 23 percent and anger over fuel costs, blamed on taxes imposed by President Emmanuel Macron to fight pollution, has been simmering for months, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas where public transport is patchy.
Borne has described the bill as “a toolbox available to transport operators, local authorities, employers and transport users”. 
However it is feared that the bill will not go far enough for the people who want immediate solutions to transport problems in their area. 
Here are the measures that will affect transport in rural France. 
LATEST: 'Yellow vest' road blocks continue with Macron under pressure to respond
Photo: AFP
Transport authorities
The bill says that the whole of France will be covered by a transport authority known as an AOM, which currently only cover cities or large and medium-sized towns, as well as the whole of the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.
This means that all local authorities, regardless of their size, will be able to set up a tax on businesses to finance the area's transport network. 
The idea behind this is to ensure that in every part of France there is an alternatives to driving. 
However some people have already jumped on the fact that many small communities have such limited resources that they will not be able to afford their own transport authority. 
Cheaper driving licenses
This has been described in the French press as one of the most “eagerly anticipated” measures included in the bill. 
If the proposal, recently promised by French President Emmanuel Macron, goes ahead the cost of getting a driving license would see a “drastic drop” from the current price of between €600 and €2,000.
However some have suggested that this seems unrealistic because prices vary dramatically between departments and each driving school in France has its own pricing policy.
Carpooling and cycling
A “sustainable transport package” worth up to €400 as a way of encouraging people to carpool or cycle is included on the bill. 
The idea is that employers would pay their staff a bonus for using more sustainable methods of transport.  
The bill also includes the legal framework to create public shuttles (navettes in French) from 2020.
Experiments with these driverless buses have already been conducted in Paris and in April 2018, autonomous shuttles were launched at Charles de Gaulle airport. 
The bill proposes that these small electric vehicles could be put into circulation in rural areas in less than two years and take travelers to a train station or city centre.
'Green lanes'
Also in the bill is the proposal to allow local authorities to create lanes reserved for vehicles which are less polluting and carpooling in a bid to reduce congestion. 
Up to date transport info
The law also proposes that there should be comprehensive access to information on transport solutions, timetables and fares, both in the city and in the countryside. 
A platform offering information on transport networks across France, including for cyclists, rail and bus passengers and people carpooling will be made public by the end of 2021.
Support for job seekers 
There will be transport support for job seekers however the exact details of this plan have not been worked out. 
The railways 
A total of nearly €5 billion will be spent each year on restoring and developing the country's railways, with trains servicing rural areas a priority.
This will see the development of new lines, such as Bordeaux-Toulouse and Montpellier-Perpignan.

Member comments

  1. This doesn’t address the issue of going where you need to go when you need to be there. The infrastructure in rural areas is so poor whole villages anjd sectors, schools have dwindled and died, the majority for want of a viable communications and transport system. The disregard of the Government for rural areas has become endemic. Thus agriculture has dispensed with manpower, becoming extensively mechanised, and young people have flocked to the cities, both for education and for work. Families have been disrupted and the lack of parental guidance has led to ancillary social, welfare and employment problems. Within the logistics of running a country, one can no more ignore communications (Broadband or even ADSL are still not available everywhere) and Transport (since the railways were dismantled in the 1960’s many villages dwindled to become an open air retirement home. Families with children, enterprises and schools, commerces, post offices, libraries, doctors, dentists, services all diminished. Transport was one of the many requirements that, with its loss, accelerated the loss of communities. It will take more than shuttles in rural areas. There are radical moves that need to be made.

  2. We are fortunate to have, in our region (66), the €1bus service. It’s brilliant.
    Of course; it only runs to a very limited timetable that fails to cover, for instance, late night journeys.
    But, for everyday trips; shopping, work, administration, etc., it can’t be faulted.

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Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?

France’s top-up health insurance 'mutuelles' have been getting steadily more expensive in 2020. Here’s a look at what’s changing, why and who is the worst affected.

Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?
A dentist is checking the teeth of an elderly lady in a nursing home in Paris. Photo: AFP

“The prices have never been so high in France,” said Fabien Soccio, spokesperson for the company Meilleure Assurance (Best Insurance).

His company this week revealed the results of a new study of France's private health insurance fees, mutuelles, to French media.

After comparing 55 different mutuelles health insurances, Meilleur Assurance concluded that there had been a general spike in the average cost.

What is a mutuelle?

France has generous state health care that covers a lot of medical expenses, but not all costs are reimbursed.

In France you pay upfront for your doctor's appointment, prescription or procedure and then the government reimburses the costs to you. Depending on the procedure and your situation, usually about 80-90 percent of the cost is reimbursed.

If that cost is a €25 appointment with your GP that's not such a big deal, but with more expensive treatments the costs can mount up, which is where a mutuelle comes in.

The mutuelle is a 'top-up' insurance – not obligatory, but recommended – which covers extra costs that are not covered by the state. How much a mutuelle covers will depend on the kind of insurance, where you live and the expenses in question.

If you are an employee, your employer must pay for at least half the cost of your mutuelle

Who was affected by the price increase?

The 2020 price hike touched the country as a whole, however some regions and population groups were harder hit than others, Soccio told Le Parisien.

To compare the costs for different socio-demographic groups, Meilleur Assurance created three different types of profiles; a 25-year-old employee with a “classic” mutuelle; a couple with two children, also on a “classic” mutuelle and a 60-year-old couple with “strengthened” guarantees in their mutuelle.

Seniors hardest hit

Retirees tend to go for fuller versions of mutuelles because these cover additional costs (such as dental and optical treatments). 

Seniors on extensive types of mutuelles were those suffering the steepest price increases this year, Soccio said. 

“In 2020, fifteen départements exceeded a threshold of €3,000 in annual fees for a senior couple with extra guarantees,” Soccio said.

“That’s an average increase of more than €176 in one year,” he said.

For the couple with a child, the increase was slighter ( an extra 4 percent), whereas the young employee saw health insurance bills largely unchanged.

READ ALSO Brexit: Do I need a mutuelle to get residency in France?


.. along with Parisians

The study also revealed large price differences between different regions, with inhabitants in the Paris region Ile-de-France paying the highest bills for their mutuelles.

A retired couple would pay on average €528 more if they lived in Paris compared to if they lived in a more rural, cheaper département like Mayenne.

Similarly, employees would pay 30 percent more on average in Paris than in Pays-de-la-Loire.

Parisians also saw the steepest price increases since last year, by 14.6 percent on average for the retired couple with a mutuelle covering extra costs.

On a national level, the average price increase for the same couple was 12.1 percent. 

.. but everyone was a little worse off

However the country as a whole saw a price increase last year, with even those opting for the cheapest kinds of health insurance affected by the general price hike.

In one year, from 2019 to 2020, the cheapest type of health insurance had increased by 13.7 percent, according to the study. 

Why the increase?

Prices generally increase a little every year, but this year was unusual, Soccio said.

“Today, we are in an uncertain and troubled situation,” he told Europe 1, listing several factors that had contributed to the price increase: the Covid-19 pandemic, the government's new health reform known as “100 percent Santé”, and a new health tax known as the “Covid surtax”.

When the French government presented their new budget for 2021, centred on their dazzling €100 billion relaunch plan, they promised not to increase taxes for the French. Instead, to top up their savings a little, the government introduced a new tax, the “Covid surtax”, which will be paid through the mutuelles and other health insurance companies.

This tax will provide €1 billion in total to the state in 2021, and €500 million in 2022, according to French media.

What about the future?

Soccio said he worried the trend of prices increasing would continue in the next couple of years, leading to steep prices for even those opting for the cheaper mutuelles.

“It's safe to bet that the national average costs will pass €3,000 in the next two years,” he told Le Parisien.