Emergency services exempt from French motorway tolls

Firefighters and police will finally no longer be charged to drive on motorways in France, almost two years after MPs voted to exempt them from payments, in October 2017.

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Yet, the move has not come from the government - despite the October vote, from which no changes have yet been made - but from the motorway companies themselves.

On July 18, l'Association Française des Sociétés d'Autoroutes (AFSA) - a consortium of around 20 private motorway companies - announced that it would allow the services to travel on its roads for free.

The measure is set to apply to the entire country eventually, but will apply only to the Alpes-Maritimes department in the first instance. The departmental council has signed an agreement with motorway company Vinci Autoroutes. Eric Ciotti MP, the author of the 2017 amendment, is part of the council.

Other agreements are “in the process of being signed” in other departments, AFSA said.

Under the plan, motorway companies will issue “specific télépéage (automatic payment) badges” to the emergency services, allowing them to pass through payment barriers quickly. The services will then later inform the motorway company of the roads used, which will exempt them from any charges.

The services of the Alpes-Maritimes expect to save €125,000 per year.

Under the current system, emergency services are only allowed to skip motorway péage payments if they are in the process of attending an incident on the motorway itself. Some vehicles already have a télépéage badge, but these must be paid for; and not all emergency vehicles have them.

A statement from the president of Vinci Autoroutes said: “Before, we would just let them pass [manually] if we saw their flashing sirens were on.”

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