© 2018 Elsevier Ltd In October 2014, France abandoned the implementation of the écotaxe, a major country-wide Electronic Tolling System (ETS) designed to charge for the use of national and local roads, which were not covered by the traditional toll system. The écotaxe originated from a political consensus and was designed with the collaboration of business stakeholders. However, unforeseen implementation difficulties resulted in a renouncement at a late stage, when the infrastructure was already deployed. According to a recent report from the French body in charge of auditing public expenses, it generated a cost of 953 million euros. In analysing what happened during the policy delivery stage, this paper provides insights to policymakers in countries where ETS is envisaged. The ETS system was piloted in summer 2013, and the “go live” date was 1st September 2014. Data was collected ‘live’ in March 2014, featuring 21 interviews, with the aim of better understanding the expected challenges and impacts on the business stakeholders. At the time, stakeholders accepted that the project would go ahead: while further implementation challenges remained, few anticipated them to fully derail the project within 6 months. Retrospective analysis of the data collected in March 2014 can help to deepen policymakers’ insights into why the project ultimately failed and better understand the main lessons to be learnt. The findings show that the écotaxe, presented as environmental taxation by policymakers, had been in reality perceived and accepted by business stakeholders as more of an infrastructure tax. Interestingly, this in itself does not explain the failure. The main explanation is to be found in the perceived inequities associated with the charging approach, excluding privately-operated motorways, and the failure of the ad valorem surcharging system designed as a means of passing the tax costs to shippers. These findings should be valuable for policymakers anywhere the introduction of a similar ETS system is being contemplated.