Friday, August 14, 2009


As you probably know, French Autoroutes use toll-booths, so payment is more or less per kilometre.
The predictable result is that far too many potential users, particularly lorries, avoid the autoroutes & prefer the old Routes Nationales.
So we have an excellent autoroute network which is relatively empty (Parisian lemmings might not agree on some July/August weekends) while single & dual-carriageway roads, towns & villages are clogged up by unnecessary traffic.
So the autoroute companies don't recover their investment fast enough.
So they keep putting up the prices.
And so on.

This is all a big nonsense.
Any considerations of safety, efficiency, pollution, global warming, balance of payments, health, noise, stress, etc, would say that you should shift as much traffic as possible off ordinary roads & on to autoroutes. (or railways…)
So any payment system should encourage, not discourage, every possible decision to go via autoroute.
Even if it means getting that payment from taxpayers, rather than from users only.
Or from duty on fuel.
Nobody seems to be even suggesting such a move yet, in France.

So, after an initial resentment, I find myself thoroughly in agreement with the various European countries (Switzerland, Austria etc) which have introduced per-time rather than per-kilometre payment, at least for visitors.
They handle this via windscreen stickers called vignettes.
The Swiss one is valid per calendar year, while Austria is more flexible, with a choice of 1 year, 2 months, or 10 days.
Having paid for your vignette, you are surely going to get the most out of it by using autoroutes wherever possible!

I have some minor quibbles with the Swiss vignette though.
It is not meant to be transferred from vehicle to vehicle, for whatever reason.
It is deliberately designed to stick ferociously to the screen and, when you try to remove it, to tear into dozens of tiny shreds which have to be scraped off one by one, using a thin blade, then alcohol to remove the vestiges of glue.
20 minutes of misery every year.

Like a lot of other people (I suppose) I have tried to overcome both these problems by sticking the vignette first to a thin transparent sheet & then getting that to stick to the screen.
It seems to work fairly well, depending on the intermediate sheet, but you know it is illegal & you know how silly you would feel if the hawk-eyed Swiss border guards noticed.

So when I had my broken screen replaced last week, I was intrigued to find that my Swiss vignette (not on any intermediate material this year) had been transferred in apparently perfect condition to my new screen.
I didn't think to ask them how they did it, but I probably will, next time I am in the vicinity.
Trawling through Google, I found various suggestions using solvents, but the most interesting solution seemed to be by heating with a hair-dryer.
Now I just have to wait till January to try it.

Parting thot: "Rules are written for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men." - Douglas Bader
But don't blame me if that does not go down well in court.

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