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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Autoroutes : des élus disent stop

by A. L.

Toll Roads: Elected Officials Say Stop

Translated Monday 18 November 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

They’ve signed an opinion article condemning the negative effects of toll road privatization.

“France can and should recover the control and profits from its transport infrastructure.” Elected officials from across the political spectrum have signed an opinion article containing these words, which has been published in the weekly newspaper Marianne.

At the top of the list, the co-presidents of the Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Martine Billard; François de Rugy, vice-president of EELV [the Greens]; representatives of the left wing of the Socialist Party, such as Emmanuel Maurel and Marie-Noëlle Lienemann; and the president of Debout la République [a traditional Gaullist split from the right-wing UMP], Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

The signatories observe that “the revenues generated by the toll road concessions” bring in “substantial profits” every year – a turnover of 8 billion euros in 2012. The French government plans to push back “by three years, to 2033, the end of the concessions” granted to Vinci, Eiffage and Albertis. This will be in exchange for a commitment to “about 20 construction projects” worth 3.7 billion euros.

Whereas these companies are filling their pockets, to the point that “practically all their investments will have been totally recuperated within the next ten years,” the French government is offering them 5 to 7 billion euros, tax free, each year, they note. Every year until 2030, they should make 10 billion euros a year, “and almost as much in profits.”

This is matter for reflection: “What kind of a strategic government is this, that organizes its own stripping-bare: to have others finance 3.5 billion euros in investments, when the operation costs the government between twice and thrice as much?”

The signatories indicate that a report, which was ordered by two top civil servants and which remains “unofficial” for the moment, "has alerted the public authorities to this situation.” The Cour des comptes [the French equivalent of the UK controller and auditor general or the US general accounting office] has also “repeatedly condemned the French government’s inability to force the concessionaries to respect their obligations, pointing notably to manipulated road tolls and poor-quality pavements.”

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