Mar 17 - France deployed hundreds of police in Paris to enforce the most drastic curbs on car use in 20 years as authorities sought to reduce health-endangering pollution days before town hall elections. Sonia Legg looks at the economic impact of the move.
There's been an economic black cloud over France for the past few months. And now it's having to deal with a real one. Pollution levels are so high in Paris car use has been restricted - even numbers one day odd the next. (SOUNDBITE) (French) ANONYMOUS ROAD USER SAYING: "I am working and I've come from Le Harve. They sent me because my company vehicle has an even number." There were some exceptions - including low emission vehicles and cars carrying three or more people. But police showed no leniency to those flouting the regulations. (SOUNDBITE) (French) COMMANDING POLICE OFFICER JEAN-PIERRE MEUTELET SAYING: "The police officers working with me have checked over 120 vehicles and have fined around a third of the drivers." The police may be raising a little extra revenue from the 22 euro fines. But the longer term costs of the pollution could be far higher. IG's Chris Beauchamp says the government may try and solve the problem with higher taxes. (SOUNDBITE) (English): CHRIS BEAUCHAMP, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: "France took a decision many years ago to favour diesel cars - it kept duty low on diesel cars - so it might look to reverse that by increasing the duty there which would be good in one way for the French state but bad of course for French car makers who have made diesel cars their focus for the last 40 years." The pollution levels are nowhere near as high as in some Asian countries. But Paris is one of the most polluted cities in Europe - with levels almost twice as high as London. Then there's the impact on a public already suffering from a weak economy. (SOUNDBITE) (English): CHRIS BEAUCHAMP, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: "The impact is quite difficult because you can already feel it in the popular backlash - people in France are already saying this isn't a good idea - it hurts the ordinary person so it is something that the government has to tread very carefully with." The government tried to soften the blow by offering free public transport. But getting Parisians out of their vehicles won't be easy - the city has one of the highest proportions of private car owners.