Emergency services still pay French motorway tolls

MPs voted to stop autoroute companies charging firefighters or police officers on emergency calls last year

Firefighters and police officers still have to pay to use France's motorways on emergency call outs, despite being exempted from charges in October 2017.

As reported, emergency service vehicles were to be given free passage on French motorways when travelling to emergencies after MPs agreed the measure as part of the 2018 budget.

The vote came as forest fires were being fought on many parts of the Mediterranean and was promoted by Alpes-Maritimes' MP Eric Ciotti. He said it was “amoral” that pompiers had to pay tolls when heading to save lives.

Previously, emergency service vehicles had only been given free autoroute access if they were attending an incident on the motorway itself.

The government had been due to negotiate free travel for emergency vehicles with autoroute companies – which are thought to make more than 20% profit on the roads, totalling about €1.5billion a year.

But authorities are still paying out thousands of euros a month to autoroute companies for vehicles on emergency calls. In Var, accounts reveal that €16,675 was paid in July 2018 alone, according to Francetvinfo.

Françoise Dumont, president of the Service Départemental d'Incendie et de Secours du Var, said: "The amount of one year's motorway tolls is about €130,000, the equivalent of two ambulances. We need to renew our ambulances, so we are calling for pure and simple application of the law."

The Ministry of Transport said that talks had, "fallen a little behind because (...) the concession companies' contracts provide that they must be compensated up to the amount of the loss of earnings."

Mr Ciotti, however, said: "If the Government had wanted it, the measure would have been in force ... It's a lack of courage in the face of financial pressure from motorway companies."

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