Red Channel

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TODAY IS the first red alert day of the summer on the main drag to the south of France, the A7 autoroute. The company that runs the motorway, Autoroutes du Sud de la France, is warning about severe congestion on the main bottleneck, the 100-mile stretch through the Rhone Valley between Vienne (south of Lyon) and Orange (north of Avignon).

Southbound, long delays can be expected today between 4pm and 8pm, and on Fridays and Saturdays over the next seven weekends (until 15 August). Going north, Saturdays between 18 July and 29 August are classed as journees noires ("black days"), with more than 4,000 vehicles an hour expected. The autoroute has its own radio station, Radio Trafic 107.7, which gives more information about likely delays in several languages, including English, twice an hour.

Rest areas along the autoroute have been converted into multi-activity centres for the summer, with a range of free distractions, from working out to horse riding, on offer to help motorists relax and to stay safe.