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What is the purpose of the poles with red roofs near French roads?

These poles are an important marker of what is going on beneath the ground. We explain

A reader asks what the metal poles topped with a red ‘roof’ and often found at the side of the road are for. Picture for illustration purposes only Pic: Dietrich Leppert / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I live in West France and have always wondered about the purpose of the poles with a red roof sitting by the side of the road. What are they?

These metal poles topped with a red ‘roof’ can often be seen on verges at the side of the road (often routes départementales secondary roads) or in fields. 

They are installed by the electricity network operator RTE and serve as a warning that there is a high-voltage line of 225,000 volts passing below ground at that point. 

The French electricity network is made up of these, along with aerial lines carried on pylons, which are 400,000 volts.

The posts are essential for professionals carrying out works on the road, drains, field etc., who can avoid the line if digging below ground. 

A sign on the post asks such professionals to inform RTE if underground works are being carried out. 

You will also see poles topped with a yellow ‘roof’, which reflect the presence of a gas pipeline under the ground. 

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