Which French motorways are to become toll booth free - and when?

Barriers will be replaced by a system that scans drivers’ number plates

Automatic detection gates will replace barrier tolls on 210 km of the A13-14 in December 2024
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Work is taking place to replace barrier tolls with a free-flow ‘no-stop’ system on a long stretch of French motorway between Paris and Normandy. We look at how this system works and where else it has been implemented.

Free-flow detection camera gates, which do not require drivers to stop to pay a toll, are due to be fitted on 210 km of the A13-14 between Caen (Calvados) and Paris by the end of April in advance of the system becoming fully operational in December. 

The system relies on technology similar to that used to assess heavy goods vehicles for the eco-tax, with gantry cranes equipped with cameras that scan vehicles’ toll-pass tags and number plates.

Until the new gates are operational, drivers will continue to pay via the five existing toll barriers along the motorway.

From December, the motorway will be free-flowing, and drivers will be charged based on the distance travelled, to be paid either monthly or per trip.

Read more: How do you pay a free-flow motorway toll in a rental car? 

The new system should allow for faster travel between Normandy and Paris

Motorway operator Sanef started the project in May 2023, and has so far installed 17 of the automatic detection gates, with 14 remaining to be fitted.

The last gates will be installed at night to avoid disrupting traffic. Sanef stresses that drivers do not need to change their payment habits for the time being.

The project is the longest stretch of motorway in France to implement a free flow system. However, the technology is already widely used in the United States and Norway, as well as on a smaller scale in other parts of France.

There are already automatic gates on an 88-km stretch of the A79 between Saône-et-Loire and Allier (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), as well as part of the A4 near Boulay (Moselle).

A further 53 km stretch of motorway is scheduled to open on the A69 between Castres and Toulouse in 2025.

How will the free flow motorway work?

From December, drivers on the A13-14 will have several payment options.

  • Automatic payment via Liber-t electronic toll tag. This is the same tag currently in use, and should be placed on the vehicle's windscreen. Toll expenses are deducted from drivers’ bank accounts every month. These tags can be purchased here.

  • Payment after each journey, within 72 hours, by entering the vehicle number plate online at sanef.com 

  • Automatic payment via a Sanef customer account, registered along with a vehicle number plate and a bank card.

  • Physical payment at one of the payment points in the Nirio network using the vehicle's number plate, no later than 72 hours after each journey. These payment points are found in tabacs.

Read more: 14 things you can do at a tabac in France apart from buy cigarettes 

Drivers who fail to pay within the 72 hour delay will be sent a €90 fine on top of the toll amount, rising to €375 if not settled within 60 days.

Sanef told The Connexion that it expected to be able to process foreign number plates, but said it was unsure exactly how this would work in terms of sending fines to the homes of UK drivers due to limits on the sharing of driver information since Brexit.

It added that there would be a level of tolerance during the first few months as drivers adapt to the system.

The tolerance is likely guided by the backlash of many drivers against the free flow A79.

In March 2023, consumer magazine UFC-Que Choisir reported that many drivers felt the payment systems were not explained properly, while others said that they were unable to pay online and had to call customer services.

The system resulted in motorway operator Aliae being overwhelmed with work to chase down 180,000 unpaid fines over its first year, with 80,000 court cases and 600,000 ‘instructional letters’ for late payers.

Sanef’s head of construction, François Cornier, assured Actu.fr that lessons have been learned from France’s previous experiences with free flow motorways, and that the Normandy to Paris project will save time.

“It is difficult to gauge exactly how much time this will save people. But during busy weekends we hope the trip from Paris to Caen will take half an hour less.”