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DRIVING

Brits in France launch petition to end post-Brexit driving licence impasse

Fed-up Brits in France have launched a petition calling on the British government to end the post-Brexit fiasco that has led to thousands of people being unable to exchange their driving licences, and others losing their licences altogether.

Brits in France launch petition to end post-Brexit driving licence impasse
Photo: Kenzo Tribaullard/AFP

The petition on the UK government’s website calls on the British authorities to conclude the agreement and end the hardship for Brits living in France.

“The petition was launched to focus the UK Government on concluding the reciprocal agreement on licences, due to their lack of understanding that we were unable to exchange last year due to the criteria set out by France,” said organiser Trevor Hall.

“Many licences are expiring and not just because of age, this is causing problems for those who need their licence for work or daily life.”

The story of swapping UK licences for French ones has been a long and painful saga for British people living in France, with almost three years of contradictory information and changes in policy.

READ ALSO No end in sight for driving licence woes for Brits in France

This was supposed to have been resolved with the creation of an online portal that allowed people living in France to swap their UK licence for a French one.

This does not apply to British tourists or second-home owners, who can continue to use their UK licence.

However the online portal is currently not accepting applications from Brits, as a reciprocal agreement has not been reached between the two governments since the end of the transition period on January 1st 2021.

UK licences will continue to be accepted until the end of 2021, but a supposed 12-month window to exchange is now a nine-month window with no end in sight.

Worse still is the situation for people whose licence has expired or is about to – as is the case for all UK licence-holders once they reach 70.

READ ALSO Stranded – the Brits in France left with no driving licence due to the lack of a post-Brexit agreement

They are unable to either renew their UK licence or exchange it for a French one because of the impasse, and people have been left stranded and unable to drive as their licence expired.

The Local has spoken to several drivers left stranded, including recently-widowed Josephine Washington, 71, of Corbières, who has been left with no licence after hers expired while she was waiting for the exchange.

She said: “I live about a mile outside the nearest village so I need to drive for everything, even taking the rubbish out. My husband was very ill and died in October 2019 so there were a lot of trips to and from hospital that I had to rely on others to drive me.
 
“I’m also partially disabled so driving really is vital for me.”
 
In an official response to the petition, the UK government said:

“The Government is committed to establishing arrangements with France, that facilitate private motoring with the minimum of bureaucracy, as soon as possible.

“The Government is committed to establishing reciprocal arrangements with France that facilitate private motoring with the minimum of bureaucracy. At the end of 2020, the Department had successfully agreed arrangements with France for the mutual recognition of photocard licences. As such, UK photocard licence holders will not need to carry an additional International Driving Permit (IDP) when driving in France – nor any EU Member State.

“For UK residents in France, we have secured interim arrangements which will allow UK licence holders’ to continue to use their UK licence until 1 January 2022, provided that it remains valid in the UK. There is therefore no requirement for these valid UK licences to be exchanged during this period, until a reciprocal agreement is reached between the United Kingdom and France. We are working with the French government to finalise this agreement.

“These interim arrangements however do not extend to those UK residents whose licence has expired, and we are aware that this is causing difficulty for a number of UK residents in France. We are working closely with the French Government to explore solutions for those with expired licences and the Government commits to providing an update as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Department for Transport are working with the British Embassy in Paris to clarify the approach to exchanging UK licences in France and updates will be made to the Living in France guide and the the driving licence section on Gov.uk.”

 
You can sign the petition HERE.

The Local is also asking its British readers to fill in a short survey HERE, telling us of your experiences – successful or otherwise – in swapping your licence.

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TRAVEL

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

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

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

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

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.

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