The Interrail train program has allowed unlimited train travel across Europe at a fixed price for nearly 50 years, but now the UK’s train operators are withdrawing. Effective on January 1, 2020, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the UK train industry, announced that it’s pulling out of both Interrail and Eurail, meaning UK travelers will no longer have the option of starting their journey from their home station. Instead, they must start on the Eurostar from London. For European travelers, however, the impact is a bit more serious. Instead of being able to visit the UK as part of Interrail, they will have to buy separate BritRail passes, which will give them access to the UK’s rail system.
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the RDG, explained that the decision was made because offering both Interrail and BritRail at the same time was too confusing. “The rail industry boosts British tourism,” he said, “and, working together, rail companies are offering the best option for tourists with BritRail, which is recommended by Visit Britain, offers two-for-one deals on 200 attractions across the country and includes the convenience of mobile tickets.”
However, Liberal MP’s are aghast at the withdrawal, believing that it creates unnecessary obstacles for British and EU travelers. “This is a desperately sad decision,” said Luisa Porritt, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat MEP’s, “which in particular could lead to fewer young Europeans enjoying Britain and more barriers to Brits enjoying the rest of Europe. This sends the message we are turning our backs on Europe and the fantastic opportunities it offers us.”
Interrail was launched in 1872, with the aim of giving young people under the age of 21 the ability to travel to 21 countries for just $32. The program hasn’t waned in popularity, as over 300,000 Interrail passes were sold last year.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said, “This is truly a retrograde step limiting the ability of young people to explore the continent they live in and do so in an affordable and environmentally friendly way. Be in no doubt this decision will harm tourism outside of London and the wider economy.”
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