Toll barriers are being removed on a key French motorway this week as a major transformation project gets under way.
It will see the A13/A14 from Paris to Normandy become France’s first toll motorway to be entirely barrier-free.
The project, with an initial cost of €120 million, aims to improve traffic flow on one of the country’s busiest roads by removing the need for vehicles to stop at toll barriers.
How will it work?
Barriers are being replaced with automatic vehicle detection systems similar to the Dartford Tunnel/Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in the UK.
Metal frames or gantries will span the motorway and are equipped with intelligent sensors that can detect each vehicle, even when travelling at high speeds.
They cover all lanes of the motorway and are able to differentiate between different-sized vehicles.
Technology then either reads the vehicle’s registration number or identifies whether the vehicle has a toll road badge, which allows the charges to be taken from the driver’s bank account each month.
This information - as well as how far the vehicle has travelled on the motorway - is then pulled together so the customer can be billed.
To pay, you do not need to do anything if you already have a toll road badge. If you do not, you can either associate your vehicle registration number with a bank card and be billed automatically, or register on Sanef's website and pay after each journey.
Which other French motorways use this technology?
Sections of the A4 near the German border and the A79 in central France also use the flux libre or free-flow technology. The A13/A14 will be the first in France to use it along the entire length of a motorway, says Sanef.
The barriers will be removed initially on the Paris-Normandy motorway at Cagny, near Caen, and Incarville, close to Rouen.
The first toll-free sections of the road will come into force in 2024, with the company aiming to complete all work in 2027.
Below you can see a map of the affected toll booths on the road
Will there be much disruption?
“The phasing of the works has been tailored to limit traffic disruption as much as possible,” said Sanef.
Cars will still be able to use the motorway – frequently used by Parisians driving to Normandy during weekends and holidays – as temporary lanes will be installed whilst removal work takes place.
Once the system goes live, drivers will be able to pay the toll online after using the road or have the charges added automatically to an account via their télépéage badge, which will be detected by new identification software.
The A13 has already been in the news once this week after protestors blocked the motorway in opposition to its expansion east of Rouen.
The system has already faced a backlash
Although this is the first time an entire motorway will be made toll barrier-free part of the A79 motorway implemented a booth-free toll section at the end of 2022, with route manager ALIAE claiming it has improved traffic flow.
But a number of drivers have complained, saying that signage informing them of the toll status of the road – and how it must be paid – are unclear.
Sanef posted a YouTube video explaining how the system will work on the A13 motorway.