British involvement in Interrail travel scheme back on track

Eurostar will remain in the Interrail and Eurail pass scheme
Eurostar will remain in the Interrail and Eurail pass scheme Copyright REUTERS
By Alastair Jamieson
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Britain’s train companies will remain part of the Interrail and Eurail travel schemes, the Rail Delivery Group has said


Britain will not leave Interrail, the decades-old European scheme popular with young travellers, the UK's industry body has said.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced it was a reversing a decision made on Wednesday that British train services will be excluded from Interrail or Eurail passes after January 1, 2020.

"Britain’s train companies never wanted to leave Interrail," it said in a statement.

"Following the strong reaction to news of our departure, we and Eurail, the company which runs Interrail, renewed talks.

"We are pleased to be able to tell passengers that we have reached an agreement and will be remaining part of both the Interrail and Eurail passes.”

Eurostar trains were set to remain in the scheme, with pass-holders unable to get beyond its London St Pancras terminal.

The decision, which RDG said was unrelated to Brexit, was met with criticism on Twitter with many claiming it would put young people off travelling beyond London.

RDG blamed the decision on a dispute with the company responsible for the Interrail scheme, Eurail Group.

“Eurail group has decided to end our membership from January 1, 2020, despite us wanting to remain part of the group,” spokesman Robert Nisbet said on Twitter.

Interrail passes have provided unlimited borderless train travel for Europeans since the early 1970s, creating a rite of passage for generations of young travellers and providing a tangible symbol of European harmonisation.

An equivalent pass, called Eurail, is available to non-European residents, although prices and conditions for the two schemes were recently harmonised.

The European Union gave away thousands of free passes to teenagers in order to promote cross-border values.

Mark Smith, a European rail travel expert and creator of the website The Man in Seat 61, had said it was “a sad day” and that the decision was bad for British tourism.

“Inbound visitors will be discouraged from venturing beyond London as that will cost extra,” he wrote.

Smith said the decision appeared to be prompted by British train operators withdrawing from only the Eurail scheme — a position no longer tenable amid efforts to merge the Eurail and Interrail schemes.

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