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motorway aires: 22

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motorway aires[1]
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne,
from Langon to Pau

A65 autoroute

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Map of the A65 motorway from Langon to Pau

New translation, the Magna Carta


new! Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours  Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours

Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France updated: Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France

 the perpendicular or English style of cathedral  Manchester cathedral

the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
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Stone tracery in church and cathedral construction illustrated
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fortified churches, mostly in Les Landes

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cathedral destruction during the French revolution, subsidiary page to Germans in France

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on first arriving in France - driving
France is not England
paying at the péage (toll station)

Click for motorways and motorway aires in France.

Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago, Rochefort-Martrou
Gustave Eiffel’s first work: the Eiffel passerelle, Bordeaux
a fifth bridge coming to Bordeaux: pont Chaban-Delmas, a new vertical lift bridge

France’s western isles: Ile de Ré
France’s western iles: Ile d’Oleron

Ile de France, Paris: in the context of Abelard and of French cathedrals
short biography of Pierre (Peter) Abelard

Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

la Belle Epoque
Grand Palais, Paris

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Pic du Midi - observing stars clearly, A64
Carcassonne, A61: world heritage fortified city

Space City, Toulouse

the French umbrella & Aurillac

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the Citroën 2CV: a French motoring icon

the forest as seen by Francois Mauriac, and today
Les Landes, places and playtime
roundabout art of Les Landes

Hermès scarves

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bastide towns
mardi gras! carnival in Basque country
country life in France: the poultry fair

what a hair cut! m & french pop/rock

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Le Tour de France: cycling tactics illustrated

so young, so much to grow
the aires
the tolls
an ecological, environmental motorway
high tech motorway
protecting archeological sites
the most expensive provincial autoroute
after a year’s operation
some interesting numbers and statistics
end notes

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.

so young, so much to grow

Only opened in December 2010, this self-financing and highly ecologic motorway joins the A62 at Langon with the A64 at Pau. This motorway pushes its way from the north through the Department of Les Landes, one of the most sparsely populated departments in France, with three times more hectares of forestry than people! Further south, just before Garlin, the motorway passes into Pyrenées-Atlantiques [see map on left].

As yet, the motorway still looks rather bleak and unfinished, all the plants and trees being only in their first year, and grass has yet to really take root.

the dull A65 autoroute
the dull A65 autoroute

This is a boring motorway, maybe as a result of cost-cutting, with uninteresting aires. It also does not meet the requirement of averaging an aire every 20 km.. The A65 only has two aires with services, which are reasonably well-kept (June 2011) though expensive as always, while the aires de répos are forlorn and the facilities filthy.

By placing the aires next to motorway exits, they become less interesting, instead of being attractive refuges. You might as well go and explore the local town instead, or pass the aires by.

So this seems a good opportunity to look the building of a modern motorway to both ecological and penny-pinching standards.

From the point of view of the constructors and the concessionaire, a major selling point is that the journey time from Pau to Bordeaux (or vice versa) will be cut by 50 minutes. However, it is not clear that businessmen are as yet convinced, with the number of users being well below the intended capacity of the A65.

the aires

All aires are at sorties, and are only on one side, or the other, of the motorway, though accessible from both directions, in order to use less land (and to save money).

There are aires (from north to south) at:

  • Bazas : Aire de Bazas - aire de répos

    Bazas cathedral

You may leave the motorway at Bazas (if you have time and inclination, go look at the cathedral and wander around the pretty little town), and/or head south on the N524 and then the D932, which runs parallel to the A65 all the way down to Roquefort, where you can rejoin the A65. Of course, this works in reverse as well when going north.

The N524/D932 is a quiet, pleasant and straight road. There are comfortable little aires, both north and south of Captieux (a working, ribbon development town), some with a few picnic tables. Moreover, there are dozens of small forest roads where, within one or two hundred yards/metres, you pull off to the side of the road and hardly see any traffic. There, you can have for a picnic, take a walk into the forest, or even have a quiet rest. This far north in Les Landes, the forest is mostly intact after Tempête Klaus.

Not only will you have a chance to look around, but you will also save toll money on this expensive and boring motorway.

If, instead, you continue down the A65, you come to the first of its two service station aires.

  • Captieux : Aire du coeur d’Aquitaine, with service station, shop and café.
    The buildings reflect the local environment and architecture - at Captieux, wood is the dominant material.Main building at Captieux aire, clad in local Landes pine.

  • Arue, near Roquefort : Aire de la Porte d’Armagnac - aire de répos

        Sainte-Marie church, Roquefort
    A sleepy country town in Les Landes

  • Le Caloy, near Mont de Marsan : Aire du Marsan : aire de répos

    The confluence of the Douze and Midou rivers at Mont-de-Marsan
    The confluence of the Douze and Midou rivers at Mont-de-Marsan
    Mont-de-Marsan, capital of Les Landes, is an anonymous and almost dreary town, the postcard above shows the only attractive view in town.

  • Aire sur l’Adour : Aire de l’Adour, with service station, shop and café

    The centre of Aire-sur-Adour at the turn of the 20th century.
    From a postcard of the Café Terminus - the local stop for the steam tram.

    above: The centre of Aire-sur-Adour at the turn of the 20th century. This part of the town still looks much the same today, except there are no longer the rails for the steam tramway [light railway]. The figures on the road face the bridge over the river Adour.


    left: From a postcard of the Café Terminus - the local stop for the steam tram.



    below: Steam tram passing over the bridge at Aire-sur-Adour.

    Steam tram passing over the bridge at Aire-sur-Adour
    Roundabout art on the access roundabout to the A65 autoroute.
    Roundabout art on the access roundabout to the A65 autoroute.
    The Aire-sur-Adour service aire is also reached from this roundabout.

  • Thèze : Aire du Béarn Vert et Or - aire de répos .

If you believe in long-term planning, or fairies at the bottom of your garden, the exit at Uzeins, to serve Pau airport, will be opened in 2030, while that at Arbouts near Mont de Marsan will be opened “before the end of the 60-year concession”.

Marker at

aire facilities

Each aire has parking, picnic facilities and sanitary areas.

picnic tables and new plantings
picnic tables and new plantings

The service station aires at Captieux and at Aire-sur-Adour have a landscaped parking areas for cars and trucks, as well as motorhomes and motorcycles.

Multifunction building at Aire-sur-l'Adour service aire
Multifunction building at Aire-sur-l’Adour service aire

The multifunction building provides a shopping area, a café, and other services such as showers, baby-changing facilities, and tourist information.

Inside the shop and café at the Aire-sur-Adour services
Inside the shop and café at the Aire-sur-Adour services

The buildings are designed to exemplify durable development with reinforced insulation and roof solar panels to help create a small ecological footprint. The buildings also reflect the local environment and architecture: at Aire-sur-Adour, some of the walls are faced in the local fashion with “galets d’Adour”.

panel of galets d'Adour
panel of galets d’Adour


the tolls

Cross-tables of toll prices. A car is Class 1, and these tariffs are not to increase during 2011. The bypass around Aire-sur-Adour is free for motorists entering and exiting the Aire-sur-Adour Nord and Sud exits (and vice versa).

The modern tollbooths on the A65
The modern tollbooths on the A65


As you drive between Garlin (south of Aire-sur-Adour) and Pau, in Pyrenées-Atlantiques, you can see various raptors sitting on fence posts, or diving on prey.

Raptor on a motorway-side fence post
Raptor on a motorway-side fence post


an ecological, environmental motorway

  • To minimise the quantity of imported stone, gravel and earth used, cut and fill methods were employed, with excavated material being used to build embankments. To resolve the shortfall of about 2.5 million tonnes, seven local quarries were created. This was decided to be better than using one large, central quarry, reducing transport distances and the resulting carbon footprint. Having served their purpose, the quarries are now being landscaped and returned to a natural state.

    For one hectare of pine trees cleared for a quarry, a hectare of broad-leaved trees are being planted, thus helping significantly to increase bio-diversity, while the holes dug are being turned into man-made lakes.

  • There are 500 openings and channels to enable wildlife to cross the motorway in safety and tranquility, that is one every 300 metres. So, the motorway’s route is punctuated with works, from ducts of a few tens of centimetres diameter to 444-metre viaducts that allow the passage of all sizes of animals, including red deer [cerf], as well as water courses. Some of these works are arranged to allow the passage of animals even during floods, with ‘sidewalks’at various heights.

    15 viaducts have a wide strip of earth each side of the water course to facilitate animal migrations. There are 20 works which have openings about 12 metres wide. These crossing points include hydraulic structures enabling access for aquatic animals such as the protected European mink [vison].

    To reduce the risk of collisions with birds, shrubby hedges are being established in the locations with most risk to flying animals. The hedging will also guide bats to the crossing areas.
  • Natural reserves, providing protected habitats for protected species such as the European mink, the freshwater tortoise [cistude, émyde]and white-clawed crayfish.

high tech motorway

All signs, telephone lines and internet connections at the aires de service are controlled by a optic fibre network buried alongside the road bed. This network can also be tapped by nearby rural communities who, until now, had no broadband [haut débit] internet connection.


protecting archeological sites

The construction of a structure such as the A65 motorway involves large-scale earthworks, moving the soil can damage archeological remains . Through archeology, this construction has given an exceptional opportunity to learn about local history.

An archaeological survey was made on 102 km out of a total length of 150 km to determine what should be done to ensure the preservation and knowledge of the archaeological heritage.

The French National Archeological Institute has prepared an interactive map that shows the digs been made and the results, by theme (buildings, burials, trades etc) and historical period. Here is a sample portion:

Part of INRAP map showing craft industry sites in prehistoric [protohistoire] periods
Part of INRAP map showing craft industry sites in prehistoric [protohistoire] periods


the most expensive provincial autoroute

At about 20 euros toll cost one way, the A65 will be the most expensive in Aquitaine. Because of this high charge, as yet, traffic has not yet reached predicted levels.

The A14, starting at Paris La Defense and going to Orgeval, has the highest charges at 42.7 centimes per kilometre, while in the provinces until now first place had gone to the A63 (Bayonne - Saint-Jean-de-Luz, 19 km), at 11.5 centimes/km.

Now the A65 takes the prize for the most expensive provincial autoroute, with a cost to the user of about 12 centimes/km. This makes a total of 19.60 € for a single toll ticket from Pau to Bordeaux, for an estimated gain in time of 50 minutes.
[March 2012: the tolls have increased. See after operating for a year for details.]

Constructing a motorway can cost from 5 to 50 million € per km, and sometimes more. For the A65, including the money required for acquiring land, the bill amounted to 1.25 billion €, or 8.6 million € per kilometre.

Constructors Sanef and Eiffage raised 230 million € from selling shares, with the rest coming from a bank loan. The motorway concession lasts 60 years to ensure shareholders receive adequate returns.

Until 2002, the initial financing of motorways was provided by the government. Now the philosophy of financing has changed to “the User pays”. Thus, the new generation of motorway builders have to take into account the lack of public support as the State limits its contribution.

So the A65 will be managed on “business logic”, the concessionaire talking of “a product and services”, and the proposed tariff being one that people are willing to pay. Business customers are considered to have a pragmatic approach, in terms of cost, time saving and safety, when paying 40€ for a return trip between Bordeaux and Pau.

According to the concessionaires A’Liénor, the consequences of the national environmental assembly [Grenelle] has increased the total bill by about 15%. This is to pay the ecological debt imposed in maintaining more than 1300 hectares in an environmentally friendly fashion.

An average traffic of 9,200 vehicles per day is predicted to for the complete autoroute, with up to 13, 000 between Thèze and Pau.

However, recent figures released show that, as yet, an average of only 5,600 vehicles a day are using the A65, of which 5% are lorries.

after a year’s operation [March 2012]

After more than a year, one of most expensive motorways in France is still struggling to make headway in terms of users, and so in terms of revenue. Since the beginning of February 2012, A’Liénor, the A65 concessionaire, has raised toll fees by 4.2%. The journey by car from Langon, in the north, to Pau, in the south, now costs 20.50 €, instead of 19.60 €. Rates for lorries, coaches and so on have also increased.

The 4.2% increase is the result of a skilful calculation, approved by the Ministries of Transport and of Economy, that reflects the evolution of the consumer prices index (excluding tobacco), as well as the evolution of motorway maintenance and other operating costs. (In this context, ‘evolution’ generally means ‘increase’.)

In other words, life is more expensive, and so is the motorway. But regular goods traffic is being given a favourable subscription rate to help encourage freight traffic to use the motorway, rather than smaller, départmental roads. And tolls for local traffic, such as that going between adjoining exits [sorties] Thèze and Garlin, will not change.

The number of daily journeys, equivalent to driving the full length of the A65 between Bordeaux and Pau, has not increased from the 5,600 a day measured after the first five months of the A65’s operation. A’Liénor had been predicting a total of 7,500 daily journeys equivalent to complete journeys.

And only 6 to 7% of vehicles are heavy goods vehicles [poids lourds], rather than the 10% that had been hoped for after a year’s operation. However, by reducing the cost of regular lorry journeys, those that are paid by subscription, goods traffic has increased by 15% since September.

Many people, whether car or lorry drivers prefer not to take the A65 because of the cost. However, some drivers are using the A65 because they find it safer. Why? Because there’s no-one else on the road! And as for those who complain about the cost - “They don’t have to take the motorway.”


some interesting numbers and statistics

  • A million and a half tons of asphalt, produced in six workshops
  • Length : 93.7 m/150.8 km
  • Two motorway interchanges [with the A89 and with the A64]
  • Completely automated tolls at Garlin and Thèze, the Bearnais exits, paying by card or by cash. (If there are problems, a card reader records data for a later payment). The gates controlled remotely from the Caloy centre near Mont-de-Marsan.
  • Concession period: 60 years
  • Two sub-layers of aggregate and asphalt mixture
  • Road surface layer is 5 cm thick
  • Estimated road surface life: ten years
  • Construction duration: 46 months
  • At the peak of construction, 2,500 people worked on the autoroute.
  • Investment: about 1.2 billion €
  • Cross section: Highway 2 x 2 lanes
  • Earthworks: 17.6 million m3 moved
  • 162 building structures including 15 viaducts

end notes

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

  2. The bell tower of this church was originally the donjon [fortified main tower] of a 10th century chateau.

  3. Galets d’Adour are local stones, rounded and smoothed by the River Adour. They are built into the walls of buildings using mortar and local sand.
    galets d'Adour

  4. The 19.60€ is made up as follows. One way from Langon to Pau costs 17.4 € for a car. Add to this 2.20 € for the ASF stretch from Langon to Bordeaux on the A89.


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on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France individual aires                                             
A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and its aires Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
A89 autoroute from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand and beyond - aires Pic du Midi, A64
Hastingues, A64
Dunes, A62
Mas d’Agenais, A62
A7 - aires on the busy A7 autoroute from Lyons to Marseille Pech Loubat, A61
Port-Lauragais, A61
Mas d’Agenais, A62
Garonne, A62
A9- aires on the motorway to Spain Ayguesvives, A61
Renneville, A61
Catalan village, A9
Tavel, A9
A62 - aires on the autoroute of two seas three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Lozay, A10
Poitou-Charente, A10
A65 : the autoroute de Gascogne, from Langon to Pau Carcassonne, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
A64 and A61 - aires on the other autoroute of two seas  
A83 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A63: the French Wild West, Bordeaux to the Spanish border - formerly the N10
A837 motorway in Poitou-Charentes - aires A20 - aires on the Occitane autoroute, from Brive to Montauban
A42 and A40 motorways - aires from Lyon to Switzerland and Italy A87 motorway and its aires in Poitou-Charentes
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