French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne has ruled out reducing the motorway speed limit in France to 110km/h, saying that fighting climate change and high fuel costs is not about “banning” things.
Ms Borne said that “imposing on people in France” was “not the right way” to go about the issue during an interview with BFMTV.
She said: “There are people who need to travel on motorways and who may have time constraints.
“It is important to inform people about the savings that can be made by driving at a slower speed, about the interest that this can have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we cannot operate by means of bans.”
She added that reducing speed from 130kp/h to 110 kp/h can reduce fuel consumption by 20%.
The idea of reducing the motorway speed has been a subject of public debate in recent months within the context of the current energy price crisis. This is especially true since the government asked public servants to reduce their speed to 110km/h on the motorway and 100km/h on fast roads for their professional journeys.
It also comes after the publication of an open letter in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, in late October, signed by several high-profile figures, calling for drivers to reduce their speed on the motorway.
It said: “We have taken the decision to drive at 110km/h on the motorway. We could have chosen another measure, but this is simple, accessible to everyone, and immediately beneficial in the fight against climate change AND [to boost] purchasing power.”
However, the prime minister appears to have ruled out a ban or mandatory change. She said: “I am not here to pile restrictive measures onto our citizens.”
Transport Minister Clément Beaune made a similar comment on Europe 1 today, saying: “There will be no obligatory measure. There is no desire for that.”
Driving activists had already said that they would resist any attempt to lower the speed limit on motorways from 130km/h to 110km/h. The Ligue de Défense des Conducteurs gathered more than 273,000 signatures on a petition to that effect.
The measure was initially suggested by the Citizens Convention for Climate (a democratic experiment in France which aimed to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against climate change) in 2019-2020.
The idea was rejected at the time as it was seen as too unpopular. The government wanted to avoid a repeat of the discontent caused by lowering the departmental road limit from 90km/h to 80km/h in 2018 (after which many roads eventually reverted back to 90km/h).
Then-transport minister Ms Borne said she was “personally” in favour of a motorway speed reduction at the time but that it would need public support.