UK to pull out of Interrail scheme
The UK is to leave a scheme which has allowed people to travel around Europe on a single train ticket for nearly 50 years.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents UK train operators, has announced that the UK will leave the Interrail scheme in January 2020, meaning train travellers will have to buy separate tickets to get around Britain from next year.
It blamed the move on a dispute with Eurail Group, a Dutch company, which manages the Interrail scheme.
What is Interrail?
Interrailing has become something of a rite of passage for young backpackers over the past four decades.
Introduced in 1972, the Interrail pass enables European citizens to travel around 31 countries – including the UK – by train and ferry on a single ticket. Eurail lets non-EU citizens do the same thing.
There are various passes on offer. As an example, a one-month Interrail pass costs €603 (£555) for people aged 28 and upward, and €464 (£427) for those aged 12 to 27.
Who will be affected by the move?
UK travellers to Europe will still be able to travel across EU countries on an Interrail ticket, but they will need to begin their journey on the Eurostar from London St Pancras instead of their home station.
This will have a minimal effect on travellers from London and the south east but will significantly increase the cost of a trip for backpackers from Scotland and the north of England.
However, European travellers won’t be able to travel around the UK as part of their Interrail trip. If they want to see more of Britain they’ll need to buy a separate BritRail pass which offers unlimited travel across England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland will remain in the Interrail scheme because it is covered by an agreement for the whole island of Ireland.
Buying a BritRail pass will double the price of the trip for many people as a one-month BritRail pass costs €605 (£557) for people aged over 25, and €363 (£334) for those 25 and under.
Eurail said that all Interrail and Eurail passes purchased before 31 December 2019 would still be valid for travelling on UK trains until the end of their validity period.
Why has the UK left Interrail?
The RDG and Eurail disagree about who is to blame for the UK leaving Interrail.
Robert Nisbet, regional director at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Although the Eurail Group has ended our decades-long membership of Interrail since we stopped trialling Eurail passes, British people will feel no difference – they can still buy an Interrail pass, get the Eurostar and travel by train across Europe.”
Carlo Boselli, Eurail’s general manager, said: “I deeply regret that RDG’s priority to secure a competitive position for their BritRail Pass has led them to pull out of Interrail and Eurail. Over the last months we have done everything within our reach to persuade RDG to remain within both passes but, unfortunately, we have been unable to reach an agreement yet.”