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French truck drivers block roads in tax protest

Photo: AFP

There was severe disruption to traffic across France Saturday as thousands of truck drivers blocked roads for the second time in a month in the latest protest against government plans to introduce an environmental tax on heavy goods vehicles.

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Thousands of truck drivers blocked roads across France on Saturday for the second time in a month as part of protests over government plans to introduce a new tax on heavy goods vehicles.

Vehicles lined motorways, driving slowly and clogging up traffic, with reports of significant disruption all over the country, from the Paris region to Bordeaux and Aix-en-Provence in the south.

The French interior ministry estimated 2,200 trucks were involved in the protest, while organisers put the figure at 4,500.

On the main highways, truck drivers let cars through but blocked foreign trucks, forcing them to stand idle on the side of the road.

Two weeks ago around the same number of trucks blockaded roads and caused hours of traffic delays.

The blockades are part of efforts by agricultural and road transport workers to force the French government to scrap its plans to introduce a so-called “ecotax” -- a levy on French and foreign vehicles transporting commercial goods weighing over 3.5 tonnes.

In reaction to protests against the tax, the French government has already suspended its implementation, originally scheduled for January 1, but protesters said they would not give up until the tax was scrapped altogether.

“Until this measure is cancelled, we will remain mobilised,” said Vincent Tardet from the European Rail Transport Organisation (OTRE), which set up some 26 blockades on France’s main road arteries.

The tax has been particularly unpopular in the Brittany region in northeastern France, where critics say it would seriously damage the region’s precarious farming and food sectors by increasing transportation costs.

Last month, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during violent clashes with demonstrators, including farmers, business owners and truck drivers, in the Finistère department in west Brittany.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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