Our list of toll-free autoroutes raised some interesting questions – what was the rationale for making some stretches of autoroute free, whilst others are charged.
It appears that there can be several reasons:-
- where the autoroute acts as a city by-pass allieviating traffic in the already congested city centre – so the A16 from Boulogne to the French Border would be a good example
- where the autoroute has effectively replaced the main N road leaving no realistic alternative – eg. large stretches of the A75 Meridienne south from Clermont-Ferrand
- where there is an economic reason where it is hoped that the autoroute will generate the local economy in an underdeveloped region – e.g the A77 (Autoroute de l’Arbre (trees)) from Pouilly to Nevers
However, word has it that the other significant factor has been the family connections of the President – both Chirac’s grandparents come from the Correze in the Limousin, which may explain why the A20 autoroute (L’Occitane) is toll free from Vierzon to Brive-la-Gaillarde. Given that the Lot département (46) in the Midi-Pyrenees is one of the poorest economic regions in France, it does seem strange that the toll section only starts south of Brive-la-Gaillarde (down to Montauban and Toulouse).
However, who are we to complain when in recent years the A28, A20 and A75 autoroutes have given us much better, safer and faster access to the south and southwest.
The toll-free element can make some difference to your budget – e.g. Calais-Montpellier using the A71 and A75 from Paris costs €58.50 in tolls, compared to the journey from Calais- Cavaillon (Provence), which is exactly the same distance where the toll charge is €71.00.
Current Fuel prices in France
The other thing you need to factor in to your calculations for a trip to France by car is the cost of fuel and the exchange rate.
Effective fuel prices have risen by about 6p a litre since the Spring caused in part by an increase in French fuel prices and a less favourable exchange rate (tourist rates currently about €1.36=£1 at Sept 07).
Unleaded (sans plomb 95) € 1.3190 = £0.97 per litre
Super unleaded (sans plomb 98 € 1.2690 = £0.93 per litre
Diesel (gazole) € 1.0490 = £0.77 per litre
These are best prices at a Hypermarket – you will pay significantly more at autoroute service areas and many branded petrol stations – the difference can be up to €0.10 per litre or more – or 7p a litre – so it is worth shopping around if you are filling the tank. Many local supermarkets (Intermarche, Champion etc) can often offer good prices – but not always!!