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A maritime end to France's motorway misery?

NANTES, France, June 8, 2006 (AFP) - This summer hundreds thousands of holidaymakers in France will once again spend a considerable chunk of their well earned breaks sitting in traffic jams on the country's motorways.

Like most of the developed world, France's motorway network suffers from serious traffic congestion and one of the main culprits is the ubiquitous heavy goods vehicle, or truck in every day parlance.

Almost everyone -- many truck drivers included -- agrees that there are too many lorries on today's motorways. Heavy trucks cause pollution, traffic jams and seriously increase wear and tear on already overloaded road networks.

But for users of at least part of the French motorway network, salvation could be at hand.

Port authorities in Nantes on France's Atlantic coast are putting the finishing touches to an ambitious plan they hope would see over a 1,000 lorries a day transferred from motorways to ships.

The project, called a "maritime motorway" or "seaway", would link the port of Montoir near Nantes with Bilbao on Spain's northern coast using a fleet of tailor made "truck ferries".

And if it gets the go-ahead from both the French and the European Union (EU) authorities, the link could be in operation as early as mid-2008.

"The idea is that the link should have all the characteristics of a terrestrial motorway," said Michel Quimbert, president of the Nantes-Saint-Nazaire port authority, which also runs the Montoir facility.

Under the scheme, truck drivers would turn up at a toll booth similar to those on normal motorways and pay a fee to use the seaway that was equivalent -- factoring in costs including toll fees, fuel and driver time lost through compulsory rest breaks -- to using the current highly congested route that links western France with Spain.

"No truck would have to wait more than six hours for a ferry and getting onto or off of a ship would be no more complicated than going through a motorway toll booth," said Quimbert.

The port official is convinced his seaway plan offers a credible, economically competitive alternative to truckers using the motorways running along France's Atlantic coast.

"The journey would take around 10 hours, which is comparable with the road journey. And during that time the drivers are resting, their trucks are not burning fuel, their trailers are not being worn out. It really is an attractive offer," he said.

Quimbert also argues his scheme, which would be mostly funded by private investors with some start-up help from the EU, presents major economic and environmental advantages for France.

The project is cheap compared to building more motorways, an ecologically unpopular solution sometimes cited as a means of reducing traffic congestion, although 1,000 trucks is only a fraction of the number plying the route daily.

Quimbert estimates his scheme would cost around 400 million euros (518 million dollars), essentially the price of building the tailor-made ships and upgrading port facilities in Montoir and Bilbao.

"That's about the same price as it costs to build one motorway tunnel and a few kilometres of road," he said. The Montoir-Bilbao link would replace a road journey of over 700 kilometres (450 miles).

"Road transport causes seven times more air pollution than shipping, so this option is good news for the environment," he insisted.

But some environmental experts are less convinced about the seaway's green credentials.

"It could be an environmentally friendly option, but only if a number of other issues are dealt with at the same time," argued Marcus Liechti, an expert on maritime transport with the Brussels-based lobby group Transport and Environment.

Liechti points out for example that marine diesel is currently exempted from EU fuel quality standards and is considerably more dirty than truck fuel.

He also says the seaway could cause environmental problems for the areas around the ports of Montoir and Bilbao.

"You'd need to upgrade roads in the hinterland around the ports to motorway standards in order to allow the trucks to get to the ships easily and that could cause problems for local residents," Liechti added.

On the question of road safety though, most experts seem to agree with Quimbert's view that the seaway would be good news for motorists.

"Anything that helps to reduce congestion on the roads certainly makes things easier, so we'd obviously be in favour of this kind of plan," a spokeswoman for French road safety campaigners 'Securite Routiere' told AFP.

If the Montoir seaway project gets the go-ahead, it will of course be Europe's truckers who finally decide if the scheme succeeds or fails.

Quimbert says trucking industry representatives are in principle in favour of the plan. "Congestion is also a huge problem for haulage firms. They do seem to understand that if the situation doesn't improve, it's their businesses on the line.

"What will make this project work is the realisation is that either you use the seaway or you go bust," he said.
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Retour aux 90 km/h
Return to 90 km/h

On the departmental roads in numerous departments after the general speed limit was lowered from 90 to 80 km/h. Most rural departments disagreed with this measure and reinstated 90 km/h. However, this does not include the routes nationales (though most of those have been transferred to departments and thus are eligible for a return to 90 km/h).

For example in Ardèche, the departmental roads are back to 90 km/h, while the generally higher standard N102 is not (only on short sections with a passing lane). Because N102 is owned by the French state and not the departments.


Retour aux 90 km Lozère
by European Roads, on Flickr


Retour aux 90 km Aveyron
by European Roads, on Flickr


Retour aux 90 km Ardèche 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


Retour aux 90 km Ardèche 02
by European Roads, on Flickr
Report on France 24 about the opening of the overseas viaduct in Réunion, with some great drone views from above.

The N79 to A79 conversion is nearing completion, it will officially open this fall, though the Moulins to Montmarault segment is more or less completed by now.

As of late August, there were some works remaining near the new N7 interchange, but it's otherwise open with 110 km/h and 2x2 lanes.


1. There is a new N7 interchange. This is the view coming from the old N7 interchange (which will remain).

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 01
by European Roads, on Flickr

2. The D2009 interchange (formerly N9) and bridge across the Allier River

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 04
by European Roads, on Flickr

3. All references to A79 are still stickered over, though some have let loose.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 09
by European Roads, on Flickr

4. An unusual gantry. I suspect this may be a bat gantry, to guide bats over the motorway, considering the location near a forest edge. I haven't seen them in red before.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 10
by European Roads, on Flickr

5. Cressanges, which also has a rest area.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 13
by European Roads, on Flickr

6. The main control cities for A79 westbound are Clermont-Ferrand and Montluçon, which are both not on this route, which ends at Montmarault. But Montmarault is otherwise fairly insignificant. Montluçon is not a big city, but it is a regional focal point, signed from quite far away across Central France.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 15
by European Roads, on Flickr

7. Deux-Chaises.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 17
by European Roads, on Flickr

8. Testing the free-flow toll gantry.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 20
by European Roads, on Flickr

9. The toll plaza where you exit and enter the closed toll system of APRR / A71.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 22
by European Roads, on Flickr

10. The landscape becomes more hilly close to Montmarault.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 25
by European Roads, on Flickr

11. The A71 interchange and a wide view.

A79 Moulins - Montmarault 31
by European Roads, on Flickr
I've visited the Viaduc de la Sioule. It's a large bridge of A89 northwest of Clermont-Ferrand, which spans the valley of the Sioule River. It is one of the largest bridges in France, but pretty unknown. The bridge is 990 meters long and 135 meters high. It was opened to traffic in 2006.

It's not easy to get a good view of the bridge, as the surrounding area is densely forested and there is only one road going underneath it.

Location: OpenStreetMap


A89 Viaduc de la Sioule 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


A89 Viaduc de la Sioule 03
by European Roads, on Flickr


A89 Viaduc de la Sioule 10
by European Roads, on Flickr


A89 Viaduc de la Sioule 15
by European Roads, on Flickr


A89 Viaduc de la Sioule 17
by European Roads, on Flickr
'Speed check next 99 kilometers'

This is on N102 just after the A75 interchange at Lempdes-sur-Allagnon. I believe this is just the entire stretch of N102 in the Haute-Loire department, where a speed camera could be placed. It's not a section control / average speed check.


N102 Lempdes-sur-Allagnon
by European Roads, on Flickr
My hotel in Clermont-Ferrand was close to the motorway, I snapped a few photos of A75, where the six lane widening was completed in July 2021.


A75 Clermont Ferrand 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Clermont Ferrand 02
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Clermont Ferrand 04
by European Roads, on Flickr
Hotel? no more camping?
My hotel in Clermont-Ferrand was close to the motorway, I snapped a few photos of A75, where the six lane widening was completed in July 2021.
  • Haha
Reactions: Sentilj
11 different hotels on this trip! ;)
  • Love
Reactions: MichiH
My upcoming trip has only 10 different hotels (in 4 countries) ;) I don't travel to France though but have to come back "soon" because I love traveling through France.
11 different hotels on this trip! ;)
The first toll road entrance without a ticket or barrier was introduced today in Chambéry.

A new ramp has been built for traffic from Chambéry in the direction of Annecy. You pay at any exit in the system based on either your télépéage badge or license plate.

Although this is a 'first', it's pretty small-scale and will be overshadowed by the opening of the all-electronic A79 later this year.

Location: OpenStreetMap

This photo was added in the press release but it looks like a demonstration photo from the spring. The ramp opened today apparently.

^^ It looks like this model will be extended to other european countries in the near future, Spain also of course!
The bypass of Cossé-le Vivien in the Mayenne Department in Western France opened to traffic on 15 September 2022. This is a bypass of D771 (ex-N171) south of Laval.

N171 used to be a 172 kilometer route nationale from Laval via St. Nazaire to Le Croisic on the Atlantic coast. It was mostly decommissioned in 2006, with the Mayenne segment becoming D771. It is still a fairly important road for regional traffic, as there is no motorway in this corridor.

The bypass includes a 1.8 km segment with 2x2 lanes. It is otherwise a two-lane road with roundabouts.

Location: OpenStreetMap



And this section in particular was N178Bis before 1973. At the time, N171 had a different route in the department 50 (Manche), now D971. After 1978 a new N171 was formed from parts of N178Bis, N775 and N771, the last one survived in its entirety and gave the road its number (however, as no numbers over 600 were used after 1978 except for new bypasses -N1xxx- and old bypassed sections -N2xxx-, it was renumbered from N771 to the newly free N171).
The bypass of Cossé-le Vivien in the Mayenne Department in Western France opened to traffic on 15 September 2022. This is a bypass of D771 (ex-N171) south of Laval.

N171 used to be a 172 kilometer route nationale from Laval via St. Nazaire to Le Croisic on the Atlantic coast. It was mostly decommissioned in 2006, with the Mayenne segment becoming D771. It is still a fairly important road for regional traffic, as there is no motorway in this corridor.
I had not seen this sign before, but it's installed in many departments with mountain ranges.

It's a sign mandating snow tires or carrying chains between a certain period (seems similar to Italy).

They cover either an entire département, or a mountain region in a département. I've seen them at departmental borders, or in transition zones between lowlands and mountains.

This is on the border of the Lozère and Gard departments.

Zone winter tires or chains 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


Zone winter tires or chains 02
by European Roads, on Flickr
That's some pretty useful information for me, I've just had a little google and the commune (and many others I'll go through) I'll be staying in for a week in December is covered by such a zone.

I had been planning on fitting new tyres anyhow, but I definitely will now. I have never actually bothered before, although I had been thinking about it for this winter as I have a partially very rural commute now which was very icy at times last year.
Few snapshots of A88 (tolled) northbound drive b/n Commeaux and the motorway's transition into N158 at Falaise.
Judging from the pavement, it must have been recently repaved. The stretch further south had a fairly different surface.

1.


2. Leaving Orne département


3. La Suisse Normande again!


4.


5.


6.


7. That's all for A88, but we still retain a dual carriageway and a 110 km/h limit.
I took some photos of the Viaduc de la Violette of A75 in the Massif Central. It's near Massiac, it is the first major bridge when traveling south from Clermont-Ferrand.

The bridge is 564 meters long and 75 meters high. It opened in 1991, as the first large structure of A75.


A75 Viaduc de la Violette 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Viaduc de la Violette 02
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Viaduc de la Violette 04
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Viaduc de la Violette 06
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Viaduc de la Violette 07
by European Roads, on Flickr
A very short section of the N7 expressway has opened to traffic near Chantenay-Saint-Imbert on 27 September, according to Wikisara.

Location: OpenStreetMap

It's only about 2.5 km long and includes a new interchange for Chantenay. It connects to the lower standard 2x2 segment on the north end.

This means there are two short sections missing between Nevers and Moulins.
The northern bypass of Château-Gontier in the Mayenne department in Western France was inaugurated on 5 October 2022.

It includes a fairly sizable arch bridge across the Mayenne River. The arch bridge has a total length of 300 meters, an arch of 122 meters and a height of 28 meters.

Location of the project: OpenStreetMap


A short four lane segment of D357 (ex-N157) opened to traffic on 6 October east of Bouloire in the Sarthe department (western France).

Approximate location: OpenStreetMap

D357 (former N157) is the main road from Orléans to Le Mans. While N157 was decommissioned as a route nationale in 2006, it still has a function for longer distance traffic as there is no motorway between Orléans and Le Mans.

Another 2x2 passing lane segment opened in this area in December 2021.

The highest point of the French motorway system is the Col des Issartets in the Massif Central, on A75 north of Marvejols. It is 1121 meters above sea level. The pass is located at the intersection of D809 (ex-N9) and A75.


D809 Col des Issartets 01
by European Roads, on Flickr


D809 Col des Issartets 03
by European Roads, on Flickr


A75 Col des Issartets 02
by European Roads, on Flickr
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