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Contrôle technique: How to save money on your compulsory French car inspection

The technical inspection of vehicles - France's equivalent of an MOT - must be done every two years, but prices vary widely from place to place.

Contrôle technique: How to save money on your compulsory French car inspection
Photo: AFP

Now the French Finance Ministry has put together an online price comparison site to enable motorists to find the cheapest côntrole technique near them.

The site asks for your vehicle type (car, van, camper van etc), type of fuel (petrol or diesel) and location before showing you a list of nearby garages and their rates. You can find the site here.

Prices for the inspection can vary by around €50 from place to place, so it's well worth shopping around.

The vehicle check must be done every two years or your car will not be road legal (although an extension was given for people whose côntrole technique ran out during lockdown) and in 2018 the standards for the inspection were tightened up.

The new tests take longer than the old ones and are consequently more expensive – usually between €65 and €110 depending on where you are. And then you face having to pay for repairs if a fault is found.

The new côntrole technique tests 134 things about the vehicle and includes 'critical faults' that “constitute a direct and immediate danger for road safety or that have a serious impact on the environment”.

The environmental aspect of the new inspection has worried many drivers of older cars, but mechanics says this will only be a problem for old cars that are badly maintained and highly polluting.

For full details on what the inspection involves, click here.

 

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ENVIRONMENT

How French cities are getting people out of their cars

In an effort to get motorists out of their cars for environmental reasons, France and its cities are trying a number of different stick-and-carrot policies, from parking charges based on weight to free public transport. We look at the various schemes around the country

How French cities are getting people out of their cars

Pay by weight

A number of cities in France are watching the roll-out of new car parking rules in the south-eastern city of Lyon in 2024.

Currently, residents in the city pay a flat rate of €20 per month for an on-street parking permit. But the council has decided that, from next year, residential rates will range from €15 to €45, based on the weight of their vehicle.

Under the new rules, owners of an internal combustion car that weighs less than one tonne, or an electric car weighing less than 2.2 tonnes, will pay €15; for an internal combustion car weighing more than 1.725 tonnes, a plug-in hybrid weighing more than 1.9 tonnes or an electric car weighing more than 2.2 tonnes the price will be €45. 

For vehicles in the middle range for weight, the monthly price for permits will be €30.

READ ALSO French city to bring in parking charges based on car weight

Carshare lanes

An online consultation on reserving one lane of Paris’s notoriously congested Périphérique for car-sharing, taxis and buses was due to end on May 28th.

The results of that consultation should shape plans for the 35km ring-road beyond next year’s Olympic Games, when one lane will be reserved for athletes, officials and emergency responders.

Prolonging the scheme beyond 2024 as part of the games’ legacy would aim to “develop more virtuous and economical use of cars,” Belliard said.

Radars are already being tested that could detect whether a vehicle has multiple passengers and is therefore legally in the car sharing lane, he added — while insisting that the project remains “open to discussion”.

READ ALSO Paris weighs car-sharing lane for crucial ring road

Low-emission zones

France’s environment minister announced last year a major extension of ‘low-emission zones’ that will see certain types of vehicle effectively banned from numerous town and city centres by 2025. 

Those vehicles carrying a 4 and 5 Crit’Air sticker are then banned from these low-emission areas (usually the city centre) or limited to certain times. The exact details of the restrictions are up to local authorities, who have the power to extend the limits – for example Paris intends to also ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles by July 2023. Bordeaux plans to follow suit in 2025.

These zones already exist in 11 French cities – Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-Marseille, Nice, Toulon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Rouen and Reims – but by the end of 2025 they will be compulsory for any town that has more than 150,000 inhabitants. In total this will be around 40 towns and cities. In addition, local authorities in smaller towns can create ZFEs, if they want.

READ ALSO Car bans and €750 fines – how France’s new low-emission zones will work

Car-free zones

From next year, Paris plans to ban cars in an area taking in the first to the fourth arrondissements – the area that makes up much of the historic city centre that runs along the Seine and attracts the most tourists.

The plans were first announced in May 2021 and were set to come into effect in 2022, but have been pushed back to allow more time to implement the changes. 

An exact date for the introduction in 2024 has not been set, but Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said it will start at the beginning of 2024, ahead of the Paris Olympics, which will be held in July and August.

The plans as envisaged by City Hall don’t constitute a complete ban on all vehicles in the city centre, and there are many exceptions – including for people who live in the central zones to use cars, as well as allowances for delivery drivers, the disabled, taxis, VTC vehicles such as Uber, buses and car-sharing.

Bordeaux, meanwhile, extended the pedestrianised area of its city centre last November, to include part of the Chartrons district, increasing the size of the existing pedestrian area by 45 percent. The current car-free zone is some 58 hectares, and the plan is to increase it to 100 hectares in the next few years.

READ ALSO MAP: Where and when will Paris ban cars from the city centre?

Low-speed travel

An increasing number of French cities are cutting speed limits to 30km/h in a bid to encourage motorists out of their cars, save lives and – according to advocates – reduce pollution.

Cities recognise that cutting speed limits does not work in isolation. They go hand-in-hand with other so-called ‘soft transport’ measures to reduce reliance on cars in heavily urban areas.

In Montpellier a €150million 10-year mobility plan aims to cut car use and encourage other means of transport. 

As well as the reduction in speed limit, the plan includes new cycle lanes, new bus lanes, and improvements to the city’s tram services – including a new line set to open by 2025.

In 2019, Lille took a step-by-step approach to its speed limit reduction, adding new areas over a period of months, while also improving infrastructure for cyclists and public transport.

READ ALSO Why more cities across France are imposing 30 km/h speed limits

Cycle lanes

During the pandemic, more people were prompted to take up cycling as a means to escape the virus-spreading confines of public transport. In Paris, the rapidly expanding cycling path network was dubbed “corona-pistes”, as commuters shunned public transport for fear of infection.

Images of Paris as an example of how a city can switch transport focus to cycling are regularly trotted out on social media. But it’s not the only city to do this, as government-backed pro-cycling schemes are proliferating across the country.

READ ALSO How France will splash another €250 million on national ‘bike plan’

Free buses

More than 35 towns and cities across France – including Calais, Dunkirk Libourne, Niort, Aubagne, Gap, and Castres – offer permanent free bus travel on in-town routes. 

The idea is to ease congestion on the roads by increasing the number of journeys made by bus, and to reduce the environmental impact caused by cars.

Others – including Rouen, Nantes and Montpellier – run or have trialled free public transport on certain days, notably weekends.

And some have age-restricted free travel, allowing under-18s to travel without having to pay.

Public policy

It’s not just at a local level that France is trying to break the monopoly of car travel. Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system in “the 10 main cities” in France.

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

He did not give a timeline, but the Elysée later told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

READ ALSO Macron wants new suburban train network in France’s main cities

Advertising

Since 2022, car adverts have been obliged to carry messages that encourage more eco-friendly forms of transport such as cycling and public transport.

All car adverts now contain one of the following messages:

  • Pour les trajets courts, privilégiez la marche ou le vélo – For short journeys, prioritise walking or cycling
  • Pensez à covoiturer – Think about lift sharing 
  • Au quotidien, prenez les transports en commun – On a day-to-day basis, take public transport 

The messages must be clearly visible or audible, and failure to comply will lead to a €50,000 fine.  They must also mention the hashtag  #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer – which encourages people to choose less polluting forms of transport. 

Car manufacturers and advertisers will also have to mention which emissions class the advertised vehicle falls into.

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