Britain’s membership of Interrail scheme to end
Train companies will not recognise passes bought after January 1.
Britain’s train companies will no longer be part of the Interrail and Eurail schemes which allow tourists to travel across Europe with a single pass.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said its members will stop participating in the programmes because it believes the separate BritRail pass is “the best option” for visitors to Britain.
Interrail and Eurail passes entitle holders to travel across as many as 31 countries. The former are for European citizens, while the latter are for tourists from the rest of the world.
It's bad news for the regions Rail expert Mark Smith
Britain has been part of Interrail since its launch in 1972 and began a trial selling Eurail passes in January.
The RDG says Eurail Group – which manages Interrail and Eurail – has decided to end Britain’s membership of both schemes because the country’s train operators recently stopped selling Eurail passes in favour of the BritRail pass.
Britain keeps all the proceeds from BritRail purchases, whereas those from Interrail and Eurail are shared with other countries.
Passes purchased after January 1 next year will not be recognised by the country’s train operators, although their use on Eurostar services is not affected by the decision.
1 of 3: More background emerging. RDG wanted to pull out of Eurail pass scheme for visitors from outside Europe (which they'd only joined a year or two ago) to leave just Britrail passes for overseas visitors. Wanted to remain in InterRail pass scheme for European residents...— The Man in Seat 61 (@seatsixtyone) August 7, 2019
Britons will still be able to buy an Interrail pass but will have to pay to reach a Eurostar station in the South East or fly across the Channel.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald accused the RDG of being “deeply irresponsible” over the situation.
He said: “We are in the middle of a climate crisis and have just 11 years to drastically reduce emissions to avoid catastrophe. We should be making it easier for people to travel between countries by rail, not encouraging flying by making rail travel more expensive and difficult.
“At this crucial political juncture, we should not be closing ourselves off from our European neighbours further by creating extra and unnecessary difficulties.”
Rail expert Mark Smith, founder of Seat61.com, said the decision is “a backwards step” as it would put visitors off from going to destinations such as Edinburgh, York and Bath.
“They’ll be encouraged to see London and go back and enjoy their free travel elsewhere,” he told PA.
“So it’s bad news for the regions.”
Travelling with an Interrail pass was previously seen as a “rite of passage”, he said.
“I used it in the 80s when I was in my late teens. You buy a pass and you explore.
“Although we now have budget airlines, you can’t travel on the surface having the same experiences if you use air.”
Mr Smith added the ending of Britain’s membership was not directly related to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but it “fits within the Brexit narrative of being insular”.
RDG director of nations and regions Robert Nisbet said: “The rail industry boosts British tourism 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.
“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.”