France Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

According to wholevehicles, France has about 900,000 kilometers of paved roads. The country has 15,714 kilometers of highway and expressways, of which 157 kilometers in the overseas territories and 15,557 kilometers in Europe. Of these 15,557 kilometers, 11,696 kilometers consist of auto routes and 3,863 kilometers of express. The largest part of the motorway network is managed by the state of one of the Societés Autoroutières. Only a limited share of the autoroute network is under direct government control and toll-free. In addition, the central government maintains the so-called routes nationales, the original main roads between the major cities. These roads have often lost their national importance due to the construction of motorways. In 1973 and 2006, a large number of national routes were transferred to the departments, which manage them as routes départementales. As a result, the national routes no longer form a real network, but a series of connections on routes where there are no motorways.

Autoroutes

The A6 at the toll booth of Villefranche-sur-Saône.

In France consists of an extensive network of autoroutes, which connect all major cities of the country. The capital Paris is the central hub of the French motorway network, other major cities are smaller hubs. The motorway network in France is less dense than in Germany or the Benelux because fairly large parts of France are sparsely populated. As a result, there are 4 north-south connections; the A10, A20, A71-A75 and A6-A7. The east-west connections are even less available, in northern France these are the approach roads to Paris, in the south of France there are only two east-west routes, the A64/A62 and A61 and the A89. The distances between the various motorways are therefore quite large.

In France, most autoroutes are toll roads under concession. There are several large concessionaires that manage a network of toll roads. A distinction is made here between the total group and subsidiaries. However, not all of these subsidiaries are announced in the communication, but they still exist administratively.

France is known for Black Saturday, the great summer holiday traffic exodus. This often results in major congestion on the north-south connections. Outside this area, however, the traffic volume is much lower, so that long-distance traffic can often pass between the major cities outside Friday-Saturday in the summer. The road network is also relatively adequately developed, with several routes that have 2×3 lanes over large distances, such as the A1 Paris – Lille, the A6 Beaune – Lyon, the A7 Lyon – Marseille, the A9 Orange – Spanish border, the A10 Paris – Tours, the A13 Paris – Caen and the A63 Bordeaux – Spanish border. Elsewhere, the 2×3 routes are shorter. In large cities, especially in and around Paris, there are also wider highways, up to 16 lanes on the A1 and A6.

Driving Routes in France
A1 • A2 • A3 • A4 • A5 • A6 • A7 • A8 • A9 • A10 • A11 • A12 • A13 • A14 • A15 • A16 • A19 • A20 • A21 • A22 • A23 • A25 • A26 • A27 • A28 • A29 • A30 •A31 • A33 • A34 • A35 • A36 • A38 • A39 • A40 • A41 • A42 • A43 • A45 • A46 • A47 • A48 • A49 • A50 • A51 • A52 • A54 • A55 • A57 • A61 • A62 • A63 • A64 • A65• A66 • A68 • A69 • A71 • A72 • A75 • A77 • A79 • A81 • A82 • A83 • A84 • A85 • A86 • A87 • A88 • A89A103 • A104 • A105 • A106 • A115 • A120 • A126 • A131 • A132 • A133 • A134 • A139 • A140 • A150 • A151 • A154 • A186A203 • A211 • A216 • A304 • A311 • A313 • A314 • A315 • A320 •A330 • A340 • A344 • A350A351 • A352 • A355 • A391 • A404 • A406 • A410 • A411 • A412 • A430 • A432 • A450 • A466 • A480 • A500 • A501 • A502 • A507 • A515 • A516 • A517 • A520 •A551 • A552 • A557 • A570 • A620 • A621 • A623 • A624 • A630 • A631 • A641 • A645 • A660 • A680 • A709 • A710 • A711 • A712 • A714 • A719 • A750 • A811 • A813 • A837 • A844

Route Nationales

The N134 in the Vallée d’Aspe in the Pyrenees.

Routes nationales in France have been handed over to the departments in the course of history, what is called a ‘declassification’. As a result, only a small part of the road network is still designated as a route nationale, which, moreover, no longer forms a complete network. There were two times when the routes were downgraded to nationals. During the reform of 1972, which came into effect on 1 January 1973, 53,000 kilometers of national route have already been transferred to the departments. During the 2005 reform, which came into effect on 1 January 2006, a further 20,000 kilometers were transferred, leaving only a limited number of routes with route national status.

Routes nationales are of less importance today due to the network of autoroutes. Remaining national routes are often better developed, often as voie express or form routes on connections where no autoroute is available. In the western region of Brittany, routes nationales are the only through roads, as there are virtually no auto routes in this area. Elsewhere in France, routes nationals form fragmented routes. It is not uncommon for original routes hundreds of kilometers long to have only short stretches left. Routes nationales are also found in some overseas territories of France, such as French Guiana, Guadeloupe and La Réunion.

National Routes in France
N1 • N2 • N3 • N4 • N5 • N6 • N7 • N8 • N9 • N10 • N11 • N12 • N13 • N14 • N15 • N16 • N17 • N18 • N19 • N20 • N21 • N22 • N23 • N24 • N25 • N26 • N27 • N28 • N29N30 • N31 • N32 • N33 • N34N35 • N36 • N37 • N38N39N40 • N41 • N42 • N43 • N44 • N45N46 • N47 • N48 • N49 • N50 • N51 • N52 • N53N54N55N56 • N57 • N58 • N59 • N60 • N61 • N62N63N64 • N65 • N66 • N67 • N68N69 • N70 • N71N72N73N74N75N76 • N77 • N78 • N79 • N80 • N81 • N82 • N83 • N84 • N85 • N86 • N87 • N88 • N89 • N90 • N91N92N93 • N94 • N95N96N97 • N98 • N99N100N101 • N102 • N103 • N104 • N105 • N106 • N107N108 • N109 • N110N111 • N112 • N113 • N114N115 • N116 • N117 • N118 • N119N120N121 • N122 • N123 • N124 • N125 • N126 • N127N128 • N129 • N130N131N132N133 • N134 • N135 • N136 • N137 • N138 • N139N140 • N141 • N142 • N143N144 • N145 • N146 • N147 • N148 • N149 • N150 • N151 • N152N153 • N154 • N155N156 • N157 • N158 • N159 • N160N161 • N162 • N163 • N164 • N165 • N166 • N167N168N169N170 • N171 • N172N173 • N174 • N175 • N176 • N177N178N179N180N181 • N182 • N183 • N184 • N185 • N186 • N188 • N189N190 • N191 • N192 • N193N194N195N196N197N198N199

N201 • N202 • N205 • N209 • N216 • N221 • N224 • N225 • N227 • N230 • N237 • N244 • N248 • N249 • N250 • N254 • N265 • N274 • N282 • N296 • N301 • N306 • N315 • N316 • N320• N324 • N330 • N337 • N338 • N346 • N353 • N356 • N363 • N385 • N388 • N401 • N406 • N410 • N416 • N425 • N431 • N440 • N441 • N444 • N446 • N449 • N481 • N486 • N488 • N520• N524 • N532 • N537 • N542 • N543 • N568 • N569 • N572 • N580 • N814 • N844

European roads

In France, European roads are consistently signposted. Like much of Europe, however, it is not a primary system used, the numbers are relatively little known, and the routes of E-roads are often illogical and do not follow the large traffic flows on the auto routes, they regularly turn off. The E numbers are rarely used in communication.

European roads in France
E3 • E5 • E7 • E9 • E11 • E15 • E17 • E19 • E21 • E23 • E25 • E27 • E29 • E40 • E42 • E44 • E46 • E50 • E52 • E54 • E60 • E62 • E70 • E72 • E74 • E80 • E401• E402 • E411 • E420 • E501 • E502 • E511 • E512 • E601 • E602 • E603 • E604 • E606 • E607 • E611 • E711 • E712 • E713 • E714

Toll

The toll booth of the A4 near Reims.

Concessionaires are entitled to levy tolls on the motorways they manage. This is usually done by drawing a ticket when entering the toll road and returning it when leaving the route, after which the price is calculated. The concessionaires maintain the toll roads, take care of the service areas and have their own radio station on 107.7 FM. Traffic and tourist information is provided via this frequency for the area through which one is currently driving. Toll routes in France are often in better condition than the motorways managed by the central government.

The toll roads were originally operated by 100% state-owned companies. Later, most concessionaires were listed on the stock exchange or otherwise became privately owned. Most concessionaires own several highways in one part of the country. The largest players in the market are APRR in the north and east and ASF in the south.

Toll road authorities in France
ARCOS • Adelac • ALBEA • Alicorne • A’lienor • Alis • APRR • Arcour • Area • ASF • ATLANDES • ATMB • ATOSCA • CEVM • Cofiroute • Escota • Openly • Sanef • SAPN • SFTRF • SMTPC • Société Prado-Sud

History

The N85 ‘Route Napoléon’ at Corps in the Alps.

See autoroute for the main topic.

In 1811 Napoleon introduced a network of routes impériales in the parts then under French administration. In addition to modern-day France, this also included the Benelux, parts of Germany and Italy. The routes impériales were numbered according to a system in which the numbers 1 to 14 were the radials of Paris, 15 to 27 were branches of these radials and 28 to 229 were intended for other connections. These were roads of the first, second and third class respectively. In addition, there were branches of the routes impériales with a ‘bis’ number (eg 1bis).

After the restoration of 1824, a new name for the main roads was devised, the route nationale. The road numbering of these was largely based on the route impériales of 1811, with the exception of the roads that had come outside France. The numbering system of the national routes is therefore one of the oldest in the world. The number of national routes was expanded considerably in the 1930s to approximately 80,000 kilometers. In 1973 already 53,000 kilometers of national routes were transferred to the departments, mostly the routes that had been added in the 1930s. In 2006, a second major round of declassification followed, which left France without a real network of routes nationales.

In the 1930s the first plans were made for motorways in France, France’s first motorway was a 7 km stretch of the A13 west of Paris that was opened on October 4, 1941. Until the 1960s, however, France had virtually no motorways, in the 1960s mainly the Lille – Paris – Lyon – Marseille axis was completed. It wasn’t until later in the 1970s that other long-haul routes were also developed, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that France had a truly extensive network of autoroutes, in 1980 France had only 5,000 kilometers of highway, which doubled to 10,000 kilometers around 2000. Construction speed has fallen sharply since 2010.

Future

See List of road projects in France.

France’s motorway network is largely considered complete, with few missing links left. Autoroutes are still being planned here and there, but planning has been slow since the 21st century. After the completion of the last major connections, the pace of construction has decreased significantly. Existing car routes will be widened, however.

In addition, some connections are still being realized as voie express. Its construction is very fragmented, with short stretches of a few kilometers under construction all over the country. In particular, the development of the so-called RCEA has priority. The voie express is built both by the French government as part of routes nationales and by the departments, which are often regional connections, often referred to as an ‘Axe’. Most of these are in Brittany and central France.

Maximum speed

The Viaduc de Millau of the A75.

Road type Vmax

In bad weather there is a limit of 110 km/h on motorways. France has motorways, but it does not have its own speed limit as in the Netherlands. In practice this is often 90 or 110 km/h.

The general speed limit outside built-up areas in France was always 90 km/h but has been lowered to 80 km/h on 1 July 2018 in an effort to improve road safety. As of 2020, many departments have increased the speed limit on through roads again to 90 km/h, mostly on the roads that used to be a route nationale.

Road numbering

The N94 at Chorges in the Alps.

The first road numbering in France dates from the time of Napoleon. At the time of the French Revolution, the roads were in a very bad condition. Napoleon thought he needed a good road network for troop movements and therefore proceeded to construct and number routes impériales.

The routes impériales still form the bulk of the numbered routes nationales, routes with a red shield and a N prefix. Motorways also have a red shield, but an A prefix. When indirectly referencing a road number, this is done by a reference in flat text. When referring to a motorway from another motorway, this number is often also framed in white.

The A numbers are derived to some extent from the N numbers, where they run close. This is especially true for A numbers 1 to 20; at higher numbers this parallel often does not exist. These numbers are rather regionally distributed. Finally, in France the departmental roads are also numbered. These have a yellow shield with black letters. Each department decides for itself how it numbers the roads. Road numbers are often changed on the border between two departments. As mentioned, many Routes Nationales have been transferred to the departments since 2006. As part of this process, the routes in question lose their N number and are replaced by a D number.

Finally, municipal roads do not appear on the signs. They have only administrative interest.

The road number only shows who the road manager is. The number does not show exactly how the route has been developed. An N road can be a two lane road and a D road a substandard highway. The Boulevard Périphérique of Paris is even a municipal road.

Road numbers are on the signs almost everywhere in France. This applies to both national numbers and E numbers. The only exception to this is that, in principle, the number of the intersecting route is not stated at motorway exits. The numbers of French roads are indicated on a rider on top of the direction signs.

Signage

Guidelines for French signage are laid down in a national guideline, the so-called Instruction Interministérielle sur la Signalisation Routière. Furthermore, France is a party to the Vienna Convention. Road signs are based on that convention. Three color combinations are used in French signage, namely white-on-blue, white-on-green and black-on-white. White-on-blue is the color scheme for motorway references. This is reflected both in references from the secondary road network to the motorway and on straight ahead and distance signs on the motorway itself.

The other two liveries are used on the underlying road network. In white-on-green are indicated the most direct routes to a number of important places, the so-called pôles verts. All other references (except those to motorways) are in black and white. This “split” reference partly implies that the central government pays for the green references, the departments for the white and the concessionaires of the motorways for the blue ones. For this reason, the signage also uses separate panels for each color code.

The French signage uses the Charactères font. This font appears in a number of variants on the signs. Bowl names are signposted entirely in capitals; italic capital letters are used for city districts. Objects and names of service areas are written on the signs with a cursive letter in regular script.

The exits on French motorways are numbered according to consecutive numbers. The internationally known exit symbol is used for this. When an exit is to be inserted, an exit with the suffix.1 is inserted after the preceding number. Nodes are not numbered.

Road safety

The Tunnel du Vieux Port in Marseille.

Year Road fatalities
2010 3.992
2011 3.963
2012 3.653
2013 3.268
2014 3,384
2015 3.461
2016 3.469
2017 3.448
2018 3.248
2019 3.244
2020 2,780
2021 2,944

In 2010, there were 62 deaths per 1 million inhabitants in France, a decrease of 51 percent compared to 2001. This places France in the middle bracket in Europe in terms of road safety. As in other European countries, the decline in the number of road deaths has stagnated from 2013. In 2015, there were 54 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, putting France around the EU average. In 2015, France had the highest number of road deaths in the European Union, slightly more than Germany. In 2020, the number of road deaths fell below 3,000 for the first time.

Road safety is a priority of the French government, with a rapidly growing number of speed cameras and section controls. An attempt has also been made to make an alcohol tester mandatory, since driving under the influence is relatively common in France. However, the effect seems limited.

Modal split

The Col du Lautaret in the Alps.

The modal split in France in 2010.

Modality Travelerkm Part
Car 727.30.000.000 81.8%
Bus 49,900,000,000 5.6%
Train 99,300,000,000 11.2%
Subway 12,400,000,000 1.4%

France Road Network