The French government has denied claims made by a newspaper that it wants to make drivers buy a vignette (sticker) to help pay for road maintenance.
Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne has reportedly asked experts to look at ways of plugging a financial hole, estimated at between three and five billion euros per year, in France’s roads budget. A report into their findings is expected to be made public next month, and it is rumoured the favoured solution is vignettes – much as drivers pay a road tax in the UK.
“Trains pay a fee to SNCF Réseau towards wear and tear on the railways, but light vehicles come and go on the roads without paying anything," Hervé Maurey, a Senator (UDI) in Eure (Normandy) who is a member of the research group told Le Parisien. "Our road network is in danger. It's time to sound the alarm before it's too late."
However, Mr Maurey told France Info this morning: "Nothing is decided. Today, there is no vignette decision, we have not reached this point at all."
Road conditions are deteriorating in France to such an extent that the country now lies seventh in World Economic Forum rankings for road infrastructure - it was top just five years ago. As well as potholes, absent or poor markings also contribute to roads being deemed ‘non-performing’.
Road builders claim to have lost 30% of their business in five years due to the lack of money allocated by town halls and county councils to road upkeep.
Road expert Pierre Calvin, president of highways industry workers’ union (USIRF), is hoping that this winter is not a cold one. “With frost, the current state of the upper layers of roads could cause major problems," he said.
Le Parisien added that as well as the stickers, which it calculated would cost users between €75 and €125, the consultation group is also thinking about other sources of financing. These include increasing tax on fuel and making charges per kilometre of travel, perhaps using geolocation technology. “We could definitely consider a cocktail of these measures," said its source.