Transport in France

This article concerns the history and current organisation of transport systems in France.


France has a system of large, navigable rivers, such as the Loire, Seine and Rhône that cross the country and have long been essential for trade and travel.

The earliest archaeological signs of permanent habitation in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, known as boatsmen and traders, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC.

The first important human improvements were the Roman roads linking major settlements and providing quick passage for marching armies. These routes these roads followed are copied today by many 'N' class roads.

Throughout the Middle Ages improvements were sparse and mediocre and transport became slow and cumbersome. The early modern period saw great improvements. There was a proliferation of canals connecting rivers (like the Canal du Midi). It also saw great changes in oceanic shipping. Rather than expensive galleys, wind powered ships that were far faster and had far more cargo space became popular on the coastal trade. Transatlantic shipping with the New World turned cities such as Nantes, Bordeaux, Cherbourg and Le Havre into major ports of international importance.


There is a total of 31,939 kilometres (31,840 km are operated by French national company) of railway in France. [Map of the network:]
*31,840 km RailGauge|sg
*99 km 1m narrow gauge (1998)

Trains, unlike road traffic, drive on the left (except in Alsace-Moselle). Metro and tramway services are not considered trains and thus generally follow road traffic in driving on the right (except the Lyon Metro).

France has railway links with all adjacent countries, with the exception of Andorra. The connection with Spain involves a break-of-gauge.


There are a number of metro services operating in France.
* Paris Métro, operated by the RATP ("Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens") and the RER
* Laon, Poma 2000
* Lille Metro, VAL ("Véhicule Automatique Léger", "Light Automatic Vehicle"), operated by Transpole.
* Lyon Metro
* Marseille Metro, operated by the RTM ("Régie des Transports de Marseille")
* Rennes Metro, VAL
* Toulouse Metro, VAL

Tramways and light railways

Despite the closure of most of France's tram systems in previous decades, a rapidly growing number of France's major cities have modern tram or light rail networks, including Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, St Etienne, Strasbourg and Nantes (Nantes has the largest French network). Recently the tram has seen a huge revival with many experiments such as ground level power supply in Bordeaux (to avoid the need for overhead wires) or trolleybuses masquerading as trams in Nancy (to provide a quick fix for traffic congestion).

This mode of transport started disappearing in France at the end of the 1930s. Only Lille, Marseille and Saint-Etienne have never abandoned their tram systems. Since the 1980s, several cities have re-introduced it.

The following French towns and cities run light rail or tram systems:
* Bordeaux, since 2003
* Caen, since 2002, 'trams on tyres' guided bus system featuring a single guidance rail while running on tyres (partially separate tracks)
* Clermont-Ferrand, since 2006, 'trams on tyres'
* Grenoble, since 1987
* Île-de-France (Paris metropolitan area)
**T1 between Saint Denis and Noisy-le-Sec, since 1992
**T2 between La Defense and Issy Plaine, since 1997
**T3, on the south edge of the city of Paris, between Boulevard Victor and Porte d'Ivry, since 2006
**T4, a tram-train between Bondy and Aulnay-sous-Bois RER stations, run by the SNCF, since 2006
* LilleRoubaixTourcoing (non-stop since 1909)
* Lyon, since 2001
* Le Mans, since 2007
* Marseille, since 2007 (historical network opened 1893 closed in 2004 for renewal)
* Montpellier, since 2000
* Mulhouse, since 2006
* Nancy, since 2000, 'trams on tyres' guided bus system featuring a single guidance rail while running on tyres (partially separate tracks)
* Nice, since 2007
* Nantes, since 1985
* Orléans, since 2000
* Rouen, since 1994
* Saint-Etienne (non-stop since 1881)
* Strasbourg, since 1994
* Valenciennes, since 2006

Light rail and tram systems are under construction in the following locations in France:
* Angers
* Toulouse

Systems are planned in these locations:
* Brest
* Le Havre
* Reims
* Tours
* Fort-de-France


There is a total of 1,000,960 km of roads in the countrycite web|url= |title=Transport in France |accessdate=2008-10-06 |date=2008-04-13 |work=International Transport Statistics Database |publisher=iRAP ] , including 12 000 km of motorways and 30 500 km of Routes Nationales (1998 est.).Most motorways in France are toll and operated by private companies such as the Société des Autoroutes de Paris Normandie (SAPN).

France is suggested to be the most car dependent country in Europe. 937 Billion vehicle kilometers were travelled in France in 2005, of which 82 - 85% were travelled by car.

;See also
*Autoroutes of France
*Paris's ring road, the Périphérique

Waterways / canals

There are 14,932 km of waterways in France, of which 6,969 km are heavily travelled.

See also:
* List of rivers of France
* List of canals in France


Pipelines in France total 3,059 km in length for the transport of crude oil and for petroleum products, 4,487 km. Natural gas pipelines total 24,746 km.


France possesses an extensive merchant marine, including 55 ships of size GRT|1,000|first=yes and above. The country also maintains a captive register for French-owned ships in Iles Kerguelen (French Southern and Antarctic Lands).

France also possesses a number of seaports and harbours, including the following: Bayonne, Bordeaux, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dunkerque, Fos-sur-Mer, La Rochelle-La Pallice, Le Havre, Lorient, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Paris, Port-la-Nouvelle, Port-Vendres, Roscoff, Rouen, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Malo, Sète, Strasbourg, Toulon.

Air travel

There are approximately 478 airports in France (1999 est.) (see List of French Airports) and by a 2005 estimate, there are three heliports. Of the airports, 288 have paved runways, with the remaining 199 being unpaved.

Among the airspace governance authorities active in France, one is Aéroports de Paris, which has authority over the Paris region, managing 14 airports including Charles de Gaulle International Airport and Orly Airport. [cite news | title=Laurine Feinberg appointed to guide the Parisian airports towards the ISO 14001 certification (Press Release) | date=February 16, 2005 | publisher=Aéroports de Paris | url=] The former, located in Roissy en France near Paris, is one of Europe's principal aviation centres and is also France's main international airport.

The national carrier of France is Air France.

Notes and references

External links

* [ SNCF web site]

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