France scraps plan for city centre congestion charges

The much-hyped plan to charge motorists to get into France's large cities and towns has been scrapped by the government after fears it may have created more anger and stoked the "yellow vest" protests.

France scraps plan for city centre congestion charges
Photo: AFP
In the French government's new transport bill revealed on Monday one measure was notable by its absence. 
There had been much talk over the past few months of the French transport minister Elisabeth Borne's aim to introduce London-style city centre tolls in a bid to keep pollution levels down in the country's largest towns and cities. 
However despite appearing in the draft bill in October, it did not make an appearance in the final version when it was unveiled on Monday.
The reason for this is the ongoing 'yellow vest' fuel protest movement which has been protesting France's rising fuel prices and had voiced its opposition to the new congestion charges.
And while the gilets jaunes movement is in full swing, the transport minister said she did not want to “accentuate the fractures” between those those living in rural areas and those in cities.

Keeping up with the 'gilets jaunes': What have they got planned for France next?Photo: AFP

“Obviously, this measure risks deepening the divides between areas, we do not want to create false debates, so this measure does not appear in the bill,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport on Monday.
The aim of the urban congestion charges was to “limit car traffic and fight against pollution and environmental nuisances”.
The draft law stated that the rate would be no higher than €2.50 for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, however it was possible that this figure would have doubled for cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants.
That means that motorists driving into cities like Paris and Marseille could have ended up paying €5.
However there had not been much appetite among city authorities to introduce the charge. 
Local officials in cities such as Toulouse and Lille have previously developed schemes whereby motorists who avoid peak traffic times are rewarded with financial remuneration for their selfless behaviour.
While Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on the other hand had formerly been reluctant to establish an economic perimeter between the city and its suburbs, preferring instead for a toll to go beyond the borders of Greater Paris.
Among the cities included on the list of places the scheme might have been introduced were Rouen, Strasbourg, Reims and Lyon.

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.