30 December 2010

When the Road is Blocked - It's Blocked!

People generally remark when they’re driving down here about the lack of cones or road works on the motorways and generally it’s true, certainly compared to the UK.

Whether it’s because France builds the roads better in the first place, I don’t know but there’s no shortage of heavy trucks thundering along the autoroute which runs along the Med from Spain all the way to Italy and as we all know, it’s the trucks which cause the damage. If you’ve ever driven up the M1 from London, you can’t fail to see the grooves which have been worn into the inside lane as truck after truck takes the road north.

But whilst France seemingly has the quality, it also has the quantity, with nearly three times the motorway miles of the UK (10,843km vs 3,555km). OK, it’s a bigger country but even allowing for it’s much greater size than the UK, it still has 25% more motorway kilometers when the area is taken into consideration.

Where is this post going?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the A8 autoroute was blocked from midnight right through to the afternoon rush hour the following day because of an accident just outside Nice. Unfortunately, one of the drivers was killed but it was his load which caused the problems. It was a propane tanker which caught fire and melted the road.

Under normal circumstances, the road would have been cleared, the tarmac repair gangs would have been out and in most cases, the road would have been open again for the morning rush hour. But not that morning – the damage caused was considerable and by the following morning’s rush hour, the authorities started closing the road to motorists and trucks – all the way from St Tropez to Menton – a total of 54 miles or 88 kilometres!

And this is the problem. Driving north from London, you can take the M1, M40 or A1. Manchester is surrounded by motorways and even Glasgow has an excellent road network with alternative routes should one be blocked. Not down here.
Section of the A8 Motorway

The closeness of the Alps to the coast is cited by many as the problem of having more than just a single trunk road running along the coast but there have been rumours of a new motorway being built inland which would help, but of course with the massive economic restrictions at the moment and the disruption to huge tracts of beautiful land (not to mention the NIMBY’s), there is little likelihood of it being constructed in the near future.

Until then, we will continue to use the one road linking the French and Italian Rivieras and hope that we don't get caught up in the huge jams we witnessed two weeks ago.

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