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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Road charging the French way
The French motorway network

As motorway charging creeps ever-nearer in the UK, BBC News Online looks at how French drivers cope with tolls there.

The UK government is to study road charging to see if it is a feasible option to help cut congestion on major roads.

Drivers in France are well used to road charging. Many of its motorways are toll roads, and one journey may include several payments at a toll booth.

Tolls are accepted as a necessary evil by French motorists, says the BBC's Jamie Coomarasamy, who spent four years in Paris.

In such a big country, there was often no option but to take the toll road when travelling long distances, he said, as travelling on quieter roads could double a journey time.

Various companies run different sections of the 100 or so "autoroutes", and prices vary.

Driving the 182 miles from Paris to Calais will cost you about 15 euros if you use the A16, according to the AA.

The 288 miles from Paris to Lyon, via the A6, is 26.50 euros.

Moving on from Lyon to Aix-en-Provence, about 184 miles, will set you back a further 19 euros on the A7.

Driving through the Mount Blanc tunnel costs 25.60.

Happy drivers

Popular routes leading to ski resorts and the south of France are usually busy, but drivers seem happy to pay for a quick journey.

"It generally works really well. It's a big country, so you can't really avoid," said Jamie Coomarasamy.

If we want a world-class system we have got to invest in our roads and public transport just as France and Germany do, and not make such a big deal about a routine programme
John Dawson, AA

The AA's John Dawson said the planned UK expansion was "just a fraction of what is routine in France and Germany".

"If we want a world-class system we have got to invest in our roads and public transport just as they do, and not make such a big deal about a routine programme."

A public ambivalence to consumer issues could be behind a lack of interest in road tolling in France as compared to Britain, Jamie Coomarasamy said.

"There's generally a far less committed consumer culture here [in France].

"While people may complain privately, there's not the same media outcry over consumer issues, such as road charging, as there is in the UK."

After frequent trips on French motorways, he said they were "bigger and better" than British roads.

"You definitely don't see roadwork cones on the same stretch of road from one summer to the next."

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