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Protests intensify over plans for French motorway extensions

The French Transport Minister has announced all new motorway projects will be reviewed, as environmental activists block traffic in Normandy

Hundreds of people recently blockaded the A13 Normandy motorway Pic: Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock

Environmental activists have stepped up their opposition to two major motorway extensions. 

Hundreds of people recently blockaded the A13 Normandy motorway, 30km outside Rouen, to protest against the A133-A134 project, which would create an eastern bypass around the city, linking the A13 and the A28. 

The 41.5km expansion is expected to cost upwards of €1billion. 

The aim is to relieve congestion in the city centre and bring new economic opportunities. 

The prefecture wrote in 2021: “Rouen remains the only French metropolis of this size without a road bypass.” 

Critics, however, point to official data showing an expected increase in CO2 emissions of 50,000 tonnes per year, and the planned destruction of large parts of the Bord forest. 

A peaceful gathering in Léry-Poses (Eure) attracted more than 1,000 people, including local and national politicians, such as Marine Tondelier, leader of the Green Party (EELV). 

Ms Tondelier said in a video: “Ecologists have been fighting this project for more than 50 years. When a project doesn’t happen after 50 years, there is usually a reason. It does not suddenly become legitimate 50 years later.” 

Protesters also undertook operations to adapt the environment and encourage endangered species to make the forest their home, as well as driving hundreds of nails into tree trunks to make it more difficult for chainsaws to be used on them. 

The events were organised by several associations, including Les Soulèvements de la Terre, which Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wants to dissolve after violent protests at a water reservoir site. 

Meanwhile, work recently began on a another controversial motorway project – the A69 between Toulouse and Castres – despite continuing protests that drew between 4,500 and 8,000 people in April. 

Activists who successfully fought the A45 motorway project between Lyon and Saint-Etienne recently published an open letter in support of opponents to future projects. 

Transport Minister Clément Beaune has said the government is reviewing a number of planned motorway projects, based partly on environmental factors. 

“We will take courageous, audacious decisions in the coming months,” he said. 

“Certain projects will no doubt be suspended or stopped.”

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