French drivers must pay for gilets jaunes ‘free péage’

Many cars were allowed to pass through péage toll booths for free during some gilets jaunes protests

French motorway company Vinci Autoroutes is to send a bill to every driver that passed through a motorway péage that was supposedly “free” during the gilets jaunes protests.

Drivers will not receive any extra fines - which would normally be due if a driver had managed to get past a péage stop without paying - but they will be billed for the full amount of the standard péage fee.

During many of the gilets jaunes protests, protesters allowed cars to pass through the toll booths without paying.

Now, the company will use CCTV footage from the péage booths to cross-reference cars’ licence plates, and send the backdated bills by post.

Some people have already been in touch with the company voluntarily to pay their bill, it said, and thanked them for their “civic awareness”. Vinci Autoroutes regular members will be contacted by customer services within the next few days, it said.

On Sunday this week, the company confirmed that “several dozen million euros-worth” of damage had been inflicted on its network during the gilets jaunes protests, including damage to security cameras, road signs, and road guard rails.

Narbonne was especially affected, with six buildings damaged including the regional management offices, 33 incident response vehicles, and 15 péage toll booth platforms.

Some roads were also damaged, the company said.

A statement read: “Almost 250 sites were impacted daily, due to actions by protesters. [There were] dozens of acts of vandalism.”

Speaking of the company’s plans to bill drivers who had passed through for free, it said: “It is just a regulatory procedure. The drivers will not see ‘penalties’.”

The news comes as minister of the interior, Christophe Castaner, has point-blank demanded that protesters stop blockading roundabouts and roads.

In some places, police have started to evacuate protesters, despite some gilets jaunes maintaining that they have brought their "Christmas tree to the roundabout" and were "ready to keep protesting until the New Year".

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