We look at the ‘Liber-T’ automatic toll payment tag to ask, is it worth it?
‘French motorways – fast, smooth, uncrowded. Just a shame you have to queue for twenty minutes at the toll booths…’ tweeted Daily Telegraph travel editor Nick Trend (@TravellingTrend) on his way to Val Thorens at the weekend.
We said he should have bought the ‘Liber-T’ tag which allows you to use the faster automatic payment lanes.
He replied, ‘Is it worth it just for using a couple of times a year?’
That’s the $64m question, or rather the €19.14 question, the maximum cost of maintaining the tag for a year.
Admittedly there’s a €39.14 upfront fee but €20 of that is a returnable deposit. €10 is a one-off application fee.
The tag costs €5 for each month it is used, capped at €10 per year (plus French VAT).
There isn’t any discount on the – painfully expensive – tolls themselves but apart from using the fast lanes (some of which are barrier-less and can be taken at 30kmh) there are other benefits. No fiddling with change, wallet or debit cards, or leaning over to pay through the passenger window.
Disabled blue badge holders with a tag pay the same toll rates as motorbikes (that’s €19.20 toll Paris to Lyon by bike versus €32.30 by car).
The tag won’t let you pay automatically at the Frejus or Monte Blanc Tunnels but it does work on the spectacular Millau Viaduct, and at the hundreds of Vinci car parks around France too. In the near future it might be possible to use Liber-T on the Dartford Tunnel.
Despite the scheme being run by Sanef Tolling, a UK subsidiary of one of the Autoroute operating companies (there are over twenty in total) the Liber-T tag works on the whole network.
If the tags are so great, why haven’t we got one? Because we’re not that organised and there’s always better things to do with a spare £40.
(It’s interesting to know Sanef says it turns applications round in 1-2 working days).
We’d forgive someone for thinking because it already costs €80 in road tolls to cross France they were entitled to a jam-free journey.
Also, its not unknown for the Liber-T lanes to be busy – and the manual payment lanes quiet – because most of the locals have tags.
But for families particularly, on holidays during peak times – summer or winter – on long drives to the South, the cumulative effect of delays at Peage can add significant time to the journey.
In one sense, Nick Trend was lucky to get stuck for only twenty minutes each time.
We’re not surprised that since Sanef UK opened in June 2011 (all accounts are administered from the UK) it has found 20,000 customers and, it tells us today, is growing ‘exponentially’.
It ultimately comes down to how much your holiday time is worth. In that context, €20 a year (less if you only use it within one calendar month) doesn’t seem too high a price to pay.
For more information see www.SanefTolling.co.uk
– update 23 July 2014: some auto-toll booths may overcharge cars with roof boxes or bikes. But it easy to tell if it’s happened to you and full refunds are given says Sanef. See more here.