Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Could I be a Francophile?

This lunchtime I sat and watched an hour of the Tour de France (cycle race over three weeks, all round France to those who may not have heard of it and which was won 7 years in a row by Texas hero Lance Armstrong).

Coverage on French TV is excellent, even better than the British do Wimbledon. As well as chase helicopters (note the plural) there are motorbike mounted cameras giving live scenes from the front, rear and in the middle. Fantastic TV!

The scenery today in the Savoie was spectacular. Mountains, blue skies, sunshine. What an advertisement for French tourism. But what I also marveled at was something we notice every time we drive through France.

Superb infrastructure.

Today's example was a portal to the Lyon-Turin tunnel, currently under construction. The French seem to have the capability to keep improving their roads, railways, airports regardless of the economic climate. Given that French taxes are not very different from UK taxes but that they never had the bonanza of North Sea oil, it seems quite amazing to me that so much investment has been so successfully deployed.

Well, of course there are examples of French infrastructure that haven't come up to expectations - Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is one - but even so, how much better it is than London Heathrow!

I cannot imagine the French leaving a major trunk road unfinished for thirty years. The main London to the Southwest trunk road, the infamous A303, will probably never be completed. The only improvements, if they can be called that, are more speed cameras.