French toll roads: Drivers ‘paying more due to 2015 government deal’

Motorway toll prices have risen by 4.75% over the course of 2023, year-on-year

Drivers in France are paying more than they need to due to a ‘bad deal’ made in 2015, anti-corruption organisation Anticor has said
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French anti-corruption association Anticor has accused the government of “favouritism” in the way it dealt with motorway management firms, which it also says has left drivers in France paying higher fees at toll booths (péages in French).

The association has lodged a formal complaint and accused France’s economy and ecology ministries of favouring certain companies in their 2015 renewal negotiations for motorway contracts.

The president of Anticor, Elise Van Beneden, said these dealings have had “a direct economic impact on citizens”. She said: “It is obvious that the state could have collected more fees, and citizens could have paid less at péages.”

The complaint denounces "the exceptional profit made by motorway concession companies, which can be seen as an unjustified advantage”. The complaint was announced on France 2 and confirmed by AFP news agency.

At the time, the economy and ecology ministries were headed up by Emmanuel Macron and Ségolène Royal, respectively, under President François Hollande. The negotiations were led by Alexis Kohler, who is the current Secretary-General of the Élysée Palace and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne.

Ms Van Beneden said that Anticor’s complaint aims to "question the responsibility of public decision-makers under the presidency of Mr Hollande, in negotiating with the private sector for the concession of public assets: motorways”.

In 2015, an agreement worth almost €3.3billion was signed between the companies and the government ministries.

Anticor claims that the agreement enabled the motorway concession companies to “increase their theoretical remuneration” and extend their contracts, in a way that offered "a completely unjustified advantage that is contrary to the public interest".

The national financial prosecutor le Parquet national financier (PNF) will now need to examine the complaint and decide whether or not to open an inquiry.

It comes as motorway toll prices have risen by 4.75% over the course of 2023, year-on-year. Costs can now be as high as €41.50 for a Paris to Nantes trip.

Some motorways cost more than others per kilometre: for example, the 133km between Angers and Tours (the A85) costs €13.70, while the 163km between Alençon and Rouen (the A28), will set you back €30.30.

These higher rates helped the 25 concession companies make a record €3.9billion in profit in 2021, the Autorité de Régulation des Transports (ART) said.

Motorway company Vinci Autoroutes, which manages 4,443 km over the Cofiroute and ASF networks, made net profits of over €2billion in 2022 alone.

Part of the companies’ profits also go to the state.

However, Philippe Nourry, president of the APRR concession under the Eiffage group, told the Senate in April: “I formally refute any suggestion of over-profitability or over-earnings.” The companies also said that they are required to undertake repair work ordered by the state, which amounted to a cost of €803million in 2017.

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