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motorway aires: 18

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motorway aires[1]
the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border
- the RN10 and A63

 

Motorways/autoroutes of France

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news on turning the RN 10 into a real motorway
introduction
the A63/RN10/A63 artery
plans to relieve the A63/N10’s onslaught of lorries
put the lorries on ferries and trains
safety on the road
a work in progress - upgrading the RN10 to a motorway
the N10 and A63, going south from Bordeaux - a summary
cestas aire
les gargails aire
onesse-et-laharie aire
bidart aire
end notes


Route map showing the RN10 and the A63
interactive map: hover with your mouse,
clickable areas in pink change to a hand icon

news on turning the RN 10 into a real motorway

19.04.2013 The existing RN10 becomes part of the A63 autoroute/motorway next week. The exact day is still not fixed, last minute technical tweaks and bureaucracy making the date as yet unset, but it is most likely to be during the night of 23rd to 24th April.

From then, until road widening works are completed in November this year, tolls at each of the new péages (Saugnacq-et-Muret to the north and Castets further south) will be half price - 1.80€. The full toll will be 3.60€ at each péage. This tranche will cost 7€ when the tolls are at full rate, costed at a rate of 6 centimes per kilometre.

Add to this the 7.30€ in tolls charged by ASF for the section south of Castets until the Spanish border, and the journey from Bordeaux to the Spanish border in Pays Basque (at Biriatou) will cost 14.30€ when the works are complete.

The newly widened and tolled section of motorway in Les Landes (Saugnacq-et-Muret to Castets) carries 26,000 vehicles a day, the motorway further south carries 34,000 vehicles a day. This part is in the process of being widened from two to three lanes in the section between Labenne to Biarritz-la Négresse.

However, and this explains why travelling to or from Bordeaux from the south is so slow, the existing A63 south of Bordeaux carries 60,000 vehicles a day. And the government has no plans to widen this stretch so close to the madness of the ring roads around Bordeaux until that is finally sorted. So rush hour concertina driving and delays will continue on the southern approach to Bordeaux.

Marker at abelard.org

25.01.2013 A part of the former RN10 will become paying during May 2013, with the new A63 being fully put in service by the end of 2013.

The two peages - toll stations - will be at Saugnacq-et-Muret to the north between sorties 17 and 18, and Castets to the south between sorties 11 and 12. Drivers can expect to pay 7,20€ for the 104 km covered (3.60€ at each toll station). Lorries will pay 36.00€ in total. However, between May and Decemer 2013 light vehicle tolls will be reduced by half, and lorry tolls by 20%.

At 7 centimes [0.07€] per kilometre, this will be possibly the cheapest section of autoroute in France. And inhabitants of the département of Les Landes, through which the A63 passes, will pay no tolls, by entering and leaving the motorway after or before the toll stations.

Marker at abelard.org

Motorway aires are designed to provide a suitable environment for relaxing, refreshing and recovering during the long, hard journeys. As well as facilities of often dubious nature, picnic tables and seats, a telephone kiosk, there are often optional extras such as a play area or a display related to some local interest or event.

marker at abelard.org

the A63/RN10/A63 artery
The major road system down the west side of France provides communication between the north and west of France and all points down to the Spanish border near Hendaye. It has several names and road statuses, particularly so when going south from Bordeaux. The A63/RN10/A63 artery carries about 10,000 heavy goods vehicles (poids lourds in French) each day from and to Spain and Portugal, roughly one-third of the daily traffic load. Heavy goods traffic has increased by 56% between 1997 and 2005, and is predicted to continue like this for at least the next ten years. Fortunately, although the rule is not completely observed, lorries are forbidden to travel at the weekend so there is some respite.[2]

Around Bordeaux, there are several connecting urban motorways. The A63 leaves the Bordeaux rocade to the south at Sortie 15 and soon becomes the RN10, a national grade road. Near the turnoff east to Dax [Sortie 9], 155 kilometres/96 miles south, the RN10 returns to being the A63 and continues a further 87 km/54 miles to the Spanish border.

plans to relieve the A63/N10’s onslaught of lorries
There is a start-stop-start project, begun then suspended for legal wrangling, now definitely started again - see a work in progress - upgrading the RN10 to a motorway just below. This project will upgrade the 102 km section that is the RN10 to motorway norms, with a toll station at each end of the new section between Salles (Gironde) and Saint-Geours-de-Maremne (Landes). There are also concurrent projects in progress to improve the Bordeaux rocade, and to increase to two-by-three lanes the A63 from Ondres [Sortie 7] to the Spanish border [Biriatou péage]. All three projects are foreseen to be completed by 2020.

Will this improve travel on this heavily used road? Certainly, though in the meantime there will be roadwork delays. For the RN10 section, the original plan was to make two sections of six lanes instead of lanes (at Labouheyre and Castets), where lorries would be allowed to overtake without blocking other traffic. Now the intention is now to make the whole 102 km a two-by-three lane motorway, by using the current wide safety strip between the two carriageways [page in French]. It will be sad to lose this attractive and unusual method of separating the carriageways, which is often planted with verdant shrubbery and sometimes more of the ubiquitous maritime pines, but this method of widening the roadway will minimise encroachment into the singular, intense and haunting landscape of pine forest. The widening of the A63 to the Spanish border will end the trapping of light vehicle traffic behind lumbering lorries vainly trying to overtake each other.

put the lorries on ferries and trains
This road will also be improved when another plan, to put some long-distance heavy good vehicles on ships comes to pass. The French and Spanish transport ministers hope that the Autoroute de la Mer [Sea Motorway] will be put in service by the beginning of 2010. There are even rumours of a rail ‘autoroute’, putting heavy goods traffic onto the railway line.

safety on the road
Remember, the RN10 may look like a motorway, but it is not. It is not yet designed to motorway standards - lacking adequate middle safety barriers, emergency stop lanes, side rumble bands to alert dozing drivers as they start to veer on this very straight road, and with bends and cambers that are much too tight. The accident rate (including lethal accidents) may have come down in recent years as the French are being admonished to drive more slowly and, above all, to not drink and drive, but this road is still a death-trap. Its lethal reputation is a good part why this road is to be upgraded to real motorway standards.

 

 

 

 

 

 


advertising disclaimer

Upgrading works on the RN10
Upgrading works on the RN10
Note the narrow lanes, marked in yellow, and the concrete protective barrier to the left.
a work in progress - upgrading the RN10 to a motorway
March 2012: After thirty years gestion, work started in September 2011 on the section between sortie 21 [Salles] and sortie 9 [Saint-Geours de Maremne] to upgrade the four-lane RN10 to a six-lane motorway. At the same time, various industrial zones are being developed near various exits, while the area around the Muret fuel station is being expanded to provide parking for 1,200 lorries, as well as other facilities.

Upgrading works on the RN10

  • The concessionaire for the 105 km between Salles and Saint-Geours de Maremne will be the company ATLANDES. They have signed a 40-year contract.
  • The project is estimated to cost 1,100,000,000 euro.
  • Between 700 to 800 people are working on the project.
  • The new motorway will be designated A63, thus all the main road Bordeaux and the Spanish border near Hendaye will be labelled A63.
  • The works will continue until July 2014. They are being done in two tranches:
    • Firstly, widening between Salles and Labouheyre, and Castets and Saint-Geours-de-Maremne including the toll [peage] gates, is to be completed by July 2013.
    • The second tranche, widening the rest between Labouheyre and Castets, is due to be finished in July 2014.
    • The works are being done in sections of about 6 km.

Upgrading works on the RN10

  • Tolls will be charged from July 2013. There will be two toll gates at Muret and Castets.
    From July 2013 to July 2014 the toll will be 3.15€ for cars at each toll [14.90€ for lorries], while after July 2014 the combined tolls will be 6.50€ for cars and roughly 30€ for lorries [exact amount varying according to pollution emissions].
    The intervening section will be toll free for local traffic. Unfortunately, there is no easy free alternative, as all other roads nearby are minor roads wending their way through villages and small towns.
  • The relative harsh bends at Labouheyre, that are watched over by a speed camera, will be straightened.
  • There will be 65 small crossings for wild animals.

Upgrading works on the RN10

Marker at abelard.org

the N10 and A63, going south from Bordeaux
- a summary

[Generally, the northbound equivalent aires are less interesting.]

In Gironde: aires, interesting and helpful notes

  • Between J25 and J24: Bordeaux - Cestas Aire and its services is encountered when going south from Bordeaux. Connected to the northbound aire by tunnel and much used by trucking traffic, Cestas is busy and not very attractive. However, on the southbound side there is a very interesting shop selling local regional products, including wines.

 

  • Between J24 and J23: Aire de répos - Les Gargails. Southbound aire includes forested picnic area near small lake (now fenced off to inhibit accidents). Very pleasant place to stop for lunch!

 

  • J22: Take the A660 to visit the Basin d’Arcachon, the Dune de Pyla, Teich Ornithological Park.
  • Between J21 and J20: Lugos aire de répos

In Les Landes: aires, interesting and helpful notes

  • Exit at J20 to visit Belin-Béliet , birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II of England and mother of Richard I.
  • between J19 & J18: Liliaire aire with services, only in the northbound direction
  • between J18 & J17: Le Muret aire with services, only in the southbound direction
  • between J17 & J16: Labouheyre aire de répos
  • Just north of J16 - Labouheyre, there are traffic cameras in both directions, probably merited as this stretch of road is a bit of a swerving switchback and should not be driven fast, especially considering the quantity of heavy goods traffic.
  • Exit at J16 to visit the Silver Coast and Atlantic coast resort of Mimizan.
  • Exit at J15 for the Ecomusée de Marquèze
  • between J15 & J14: Onesse-et-Laharie aire de répos This aire is like a small part of the surrounding forest, with towering pines.

 

 

 

  • J13 & J12: Le Souquet aire with services
  • between J12 & J11: Magesque aire de répos
  • Note that the N10 becomes the A63 just south of J9
  • Exit at J 11 & 10 to visit the Silver Coast and Atlantic coast resorts, for a real break from driving.
  • between J9 & J8: Saubion aire de répos Last opportunity when going south to stop in the Landaise forest environment. This is a quiet and pleasant aire.
  • Exit at J8 to visit the European capital of surfing at Hossegor [about 10 minutes drive west to the Atlantic coast]

In Pyrenees Atlantiques: aires, interesting and helpful notes

  • Between J8 &J7: Labenne aire with services. There is a small sports circuit.
  • Exit at J6 to visit the French Basque capital of Bayonne.
  • Exit at J4 to visit Biarritz, Victorian royal holiday resort, still with an air of luxury.
  • Between J4 & J3: Bidart aire with services. Behind the commercial truck-filled front area is a steep, grass-covered hill leading to a tree-shaded picnic area with a view to the Atlantic ocean.

 

 

 

  • Exit at J3 to visit St Jean de Luz, a rising Basque seaside town.
  • Exit at J1 to visit Hendaye, with its frontier and sea resort atmosphere.
  • Spain!

The Franco-Spanish frontier near Hendaye, c. 1940s
The Franco-Spanish frontier near Hendaye, c. 1940s
This is now a major frontier crossing.

 

featured aires

cestas aire

Between J25 and J24: Bordeaux - Cestas Aire with services, connected to northbound aire by tunnel - much used by trucking traffic, so busy and not immediately looking very attractive.

View through an Aquitaine downpour to one of the wooded picnic areas
View through an Aquitaine downpour to one of the wooded picnic areas

However, on the southbound side there is a very interesting shop selling local products, including wines. And on each side there are examples of one of the better motels/roadside hotels, which are so prevalent in France. So, despite the looming motorway giants parked in amongst the Landaise trees that make up much of the exterior, particularly on the south side, there is enough to make this an aire worth a pause.

The Campanile hotel at Cestas
The Campanile hotel at Cestas

On both the northbound and the southbound sides of the Cestas aire are branches of the better quality motel/roadside hotel, Campanile, one of the range of differently priced hotels in the Louvre hotel group. Campanile provides pleasant hotel rooms with an adjacent bathroom, though the bath is small. Each hotel has a restaurant in the reception building, while the rooms have a television, rather noisy air conditioning/heating and very basic tea-making facilities.

Most Campanile hotels are designed so the rooms open directly to the outside so there are no corridors to negotiate, with their associated noise from other guests moving about. The main downside of these hotels, and probably most hotels, is that morning cleaners are very likely to wake you despite the ‘do not disturb’ sign hung on the door.

Sketch map showing the Cestas aire and locating the Campanile and Premiere Classe motelsLouvre also runs a cheaper, much more basic hotel chain called Premiere Classe. These have less space in the rooms, a shower room instead of a bathroom, and a breakfast bar rather than a restaurant, as well as being on three instead of two floors. The nearby Premier Classe is just off the Cestas junction/sortie, 4 km north on the southbound side.

Not far from the Campanile is a Aladdin’s emporium of what is known as Produits Regionales - regional products. Bordeaux, Medoc, Graves, St.Emilion, Tursan and Armagnac wines [note that the wines are sold at producers’ prices], paté de foie gras (both from duck and geese) and other terrines, conserves and preserved meats from Les Landes and the Pyrenees Atlantiques, vinegars and oils, honeys, sweets and bonbons, mustards, cakes are amongst the edible and often gourmet goodies. Then there are fairly locally made items for the house such as painted glasswork.

 

 

 

 


advertising disclaimer

 

 

 


Maison d'Aquitaine, Cestas aire   Olive and walnut oils
Above: olive and walnut oils.
Below: a small selection of the wines on sale.
The Maison d’Aquitaine and its mission statement, below.  
Maison d'Aquitaine misssion statement  

Above: some of the wines from 300 producers.
  Bargain bin of wines
Below: part of the Aladdin’s cave of foods from south-west France.   Above: the bargain wine bin. Below: mustards.
Aladdin's epicurian cave   Regional, flavoured mustards

Marker at abelard.org

A final note on navigating around this motoring maze. As you can see from the satellite image of the Cestas aire below, the northbound side (the lower side in the photo) has a veritable labyrinth of one-way ‘roads’ going back and forth - a further delight when finding the tunnel to the other side.

Marked satellite image of the Cestas aire

 

les gargails aire

lunch by the lake at Gargails aire
lunch by the lake at Gargails aire

The southbound aire between J24 and J23 includes an open yet forested picnic area near a small lake, which is now fenced off to inhibit ‘accidents’. Although there is a large parking area often full of lorries, this is a very pleasant place to stop for lunch!

Satellite view of Les Gargails aire, RN10. Image:  Google
Satellite view of Les Gargails aire, RN10. Image: Google
Dark, even area to top right is the lake.

 

onesse-et-laharie aire

Through the summer, this aire was planted with wild flowers in the fallow areas
Through the summer, this aire was planted with wild flowers in the fallow areas.
Plantings of wild flowers in public areas is now widespread in Les Landes and Pyrenees Atlantiques.

Between J15 & J14, this extensive aire is like a small part of the surrounding forest, with glades of towering pines. The aire roads and parking wind amongst the trees, providing large peaceful meadows away from the amenities and ubiquitous lorry parking.

However, since the cyclonic storm in January 2009, like the rest of the Landaise forest, this aire was trashed by the ferocious wind. As with most public areas, the felled pines have now been cleared away. The aire is tidy again, although it has a rather different character until the landscape is restored by further decades of pine-growing.

The devastation by Tempete Klaus at Onesse-et-Laharie aire
Some of the devastation by Tempête Klaus at Onesse-et-Laharie aire

Satellite view of Onesse-et-Laharie aire, RN10. Image: Google
Satellite view of Onesse-et-Laharie aire, RN10. Image: Google
Note, the white rectangles are the roofs of parked lorries.

 

bidart aire

View towards the parking and services at aire de Bidart
View towards the parking and services at aire de Bidart

Between J4 & J3, is Bidart aire, with its fuel station, shop with internet access, and a relatively small lorry park - only 12 spaces, though many more trucks manage to park here. Behind the commercial, truck-filled front area is parking for cars with a steep, grass-covered hill that harbours a tree-shaded picnic area with a view to the Atlantic ocean, about 2 kilometres away.

Picnic area on the hill summit at Bidart aire

View from Bidart aire towards the Atlantic Ocean
View from Bidart aire towards the Atlantic Ocean
(very pale blue strip just above the Basque-style houses)

Satellite view of Bidart aire, A63. Image: Google
Satellite view of Bidart aire, A63. Image: Google
Note, the rectangles are the roofs of parked lorries. If there are weather problems such as snow, or the Spain frontier at Biriatou is closed, then heavy goods traffic can back up the A63 and the RN10, even to Bordeaux and beyond.

 

end notes

  1. aire: in this context, an area —
    aire de loisirs: recreation area;
    aire de pique-nique: picnic area;
    aire de répos: rest area;
    aire de services: services , motorway (GB) or freeway (US) service station.

  2. With this incredibly busy road, there are a couple of driving strategies that can be taken to cope with the heavy goods traffic.

    One way of keeping out of the way of the lorries, which often are driving without a great deal of care, is to keep your speed above their maximum speed (marked on the rear of the lorry). But this means overtaking the lorries, who often swerve in their lane, and of course driving faster consumes more fuel.

    The other method is to drive more slowly than the lorries, and even to move into the emergency lane so the lorries do not have to change lane when overtaking. The lorry drivers often appreciate this action, flashing their indicators right, left, right, as a thank you.

  3. rocade
    A ring road, generally around a major town.

  4. The hotel chains in the Louvre hotel group are Première Classe, Campanile, Kyriad, Kyriad Prestige, Tulip Inn, Golden Tulip and Royal Tulip hotels.

  5. The plans are for two autoroutes de la mer.
    The ‘naviroroutes’ ferry routes run by Acciona Trasmediterránea [in red on the map below] will have three routes: Nantes-Saint-Nazaire - Vigo, Le Havre - Vigo, Le Havre - Vigo - Algeciras, starting from 2010). It is expected that there will be four sailings a week from the two French pots, increasing to seven sailings a week. The merchant ships will carry between 140 and 260 articulated lorries at 20 knots. Thus the Nantes-Saint-Nazaire to Vigo voyage will take 28 hours, while the trip between Le Havre and Vigo will be 36 hours.
    The ‘naviroroute’ - freight ferries - run by Grimaldi-Louis Dreyfus Shipowners [in violet below] will ply one route: Nantes - Saint-Nazaire and Gijón. It is expected for there to be 4 sailings a week from Nantes - Saint-Nazaire, increasing to 7 sailings a week. The ships will carry about 150 lorries, taking 14 hours.
    It is estimated that the ‘naviroroutes’ will relieve the A63/N10 of up to 10% of heavy goods traffic.
    Map of proposed autoroutes de mer between France and Spain. Image: developpement-durable.gouv.fr
    Map of proposed autoroutes de la mer between France and Spain.
    Image: developpement-durable.gouv.fr


  6. We have used the letter J, signifying the English nomenclature of junction for access points on motorways/dual carriageways. The French name is Sortie, exit. However, as this would lead to using an unfamiliar (to Anglophones) letter S, in this instance we are remaining English.
 
on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
aires on the A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
aires on the A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
aires on the motorway to Spain - the A9 autoroute three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
aires on the autoroute of two seas - the A62 Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau
aires on the other autoroute of two seas - A64 and A61 the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - the N10 and A63
in Poitou-Charentes: motorway aires on the A83 aires on the A20 - the Occitane, from Brive to Montauban
in Poitou-Charentes - aires on the A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - the A87 motorway and its aires
from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy - motorway aires on the A42 and A40

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