State of French roads causing alarm

Spectacular images of roads that have collapsed or been blocked by mudslides this winter have prompted renewed concern about the state of France’s roads

A wet winter has made matters worse
Published Last updated

France was near the top of a survey of roads carried out by the World Economic Forum in 2012, before falling to 17th position in the last survey, in 2019.

Earlier this spring, the government research agency Cerema published a report on the state of bridges and retaining walls in the country, which looked at 29,314 bridges and 16,581 walls.

It found 4% of bridges were in such bad condition that immediate closures or weight restrictions were put in place.

Another 10% required immediate action, in the majority of cases due to the bad state of attached equipment such as guard rails.

In terms of major roads, 18.8% of national roads (routes nationales) 10% of departmental roads are in a poor condition. Motorways, however, remain mostly in a good state.

Structural problems

Only 26% of bridges and 41% of walls were found to be in a good state, and another 25% of bridges and 14% of walls showed significant structural problems which will have to be studied further and fixed in the near future.

Added to this is a general perception that there are more potholes and poorly surfaced roads.

To that end, the motorists’ organisation Ligue de défense des conducteurs (LDC) has been promoting a website called Activ’Route, where people can signal problems on the road, which are then handed over to local communes, departments or the state, depending on who is responsible.

“The big problem is lack of maintenance rather than lack of money, and that is down to the shambles of the last local government reorganisation, when departments lost most of their functions,” Alexandra Legendre of the LDC told The Connexion.

“Instead of having managers in departments who know the roads very well, you now have regional structures where decisions are taken hundreds of kilometres away by people who do not know the localities.”

 Read more: A13 French motorway near Paris closed until at least May 1

Mobile app

Activ’Route was set up a dozen years ago to signal danger areas, but since early 2023 has been boosted by having staff dedicated to it and an improved mobile phone app.

“There are always problems with accident hotspots which people signal, but also, more frequently, we are getting reports about dangerous potholes, which no one locally seems ready to fix,” said Ms Legendre.

“We first check it is a proper complaint and then identify who is responsible, which can be difficult because you have communes, some residual departmental bodies or inter-departmental bodies.”

“Once we identify them, we build a relationship of trust and that usually leads to the problems being solved. Often the people in charge have no idea of the problem.”

LDC now has 10,000 active users of the Activ’Route app and is working to increase its spread.

Read more: Motorcyclists fill potholes with Easter eggs to protest French roads