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Historic day for Mont-Saint-Michel

No more cars at the foot of the Unesco World Heritage site as causeway to close to all but shuttles and pedestrians

TODAY is the last day motorists will be able to drive up to the foot of Mont-Saint-Michel as the access causeway is being closed as part of the works to make the Unesco World Heritage site an island again.

The 2.4million tourists who visit the site each year must use a new car park about 3km from the monument. They will have to take shuttle buses - the price is included in the €8 a day parking fee - or walk across the causeway.

Plans for horse-drawn maringotes to be used - at a €6 supplement - have had to be postponed as the carriages are not robust enough for use and are being redesigned.

For the past 40 years vehicles have been able to drive on to the island over the causeway which became a giant car park for 600,000 vehicles each year.

Now a tidal dam has been built upstream on the Couesnon river in a bid to flush out the sand that has filled the Baie de Mont-Saint-Michel. It is a part of the €210m project to make it an island again which will be completed when the causeway is removed and a new bridge completed in 2014.

However, the project has been hit by criticism, notably over the siting of the car park and the shuttles.

At 3km from the monument the car park is also 750m from the point where the shuttles and, eventually, the maringotes will start. Visitors must walk from the car park, although the disabled have a special parking area beside the shuttle bus departure zone.

The shuttles themselves will have to be sent back to the manufacturers in Portugal as they can hold only 60 passengers, instead of the planned 100. They will be modified before next summer and are costing transport supplier Véolia Transdev a €400,000 penalty on top.

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