UK pushed out of Interrail scheme after dispute

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The UK’s decades-long membership of the Interrail scheme, which allows people to travel around Europe on a single train ticket, is to end.

From January 2020, UK rail journeys will no longer be covered by either the Interrail or Eurail passes, said Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents UK train operators.

It means ticketholders will have to buy separate tickets to get around Britain.

RDG blamed a dispute with Eurail Group which manages the Interrail scheme.

Many on Twitter reacted angrily, warning it would put off visitors from travelling beyond London.

What is Interrail?

Launched in 1972, the Interrail pass enables European citizens to travel around 31 countries – including the UK – by train and ferry. The older Eurail pass lets non-European citizens to do the same.

Over the decades Interrail journeys have been a rite of passage for millions of mostly young tourists, although older people use the pass too.

Rail Delivery Group stressed British people would still be able to buy Interrail tickets and travel around the Continent, and the changes had “no relation” to Brexit.

It added that Eurostar trains would not be affected by the decision, which means passholders will be able to travel from Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam to London and vice versa.

However, travel around the rest of the UK will require a separate ticket, affecting both UK and non-UK passholders.

Who will suffer most from this decision?

Mark Smith, a travel writer and author of train travel blog the Man in Seat 61, said that inbound visitors to the UK would be most affected.

He said the additional cost of rail travel around the UK would put many off travelling beyond London, and they would miss out on tourist destinations around the country.

Some UK travellers are likely to suffer, as well.

Currently, if a Briton buys an Interrail pass it covers their train journey from home to the Eurostar and back again at the end. But that is set to end.

As one disappointed traveller Tweeted: “It costs me a fair few pounds to get from the Scottish Highlands to London.”

The exceptions here will be people who live near to the Eurostar terminals in London and the South East.

Northern Ireland will also remain in the Interrail scheme because it is covered by an agreement for the whole island of Ireland.

Why has this happened?

It is complicated.

RDG said the dispute stemmed from a decision by Eurail Group, a Dutch organisation, to merge its two passes into one.

RDG said the new pass would clash with its own Britrail pass, also aimed at non-European citizens, which covers UK rail travel and offers discounts on local tourist attractions.

It added that Eurail Group decided to end RDG’s membership of Interrail/Eurail after RDG declined to sell the new product.

RDG regional director 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 [the UK’s official tourism promotion agency].”

Eurail said that all Interrail and Eurail passes purchased before 31 December 2019 were still valid for travelling on UK trains until the end of their validity period.

But it added: “As a consequence of RDG not being part of Eurail and Interrail, travellers who buy a Eurail or Interrail Global Pass in 2020 will no longer be able to travel in Great Britain.”

RDG said that it wanted to work with Eurail Group to develop an offer for tourists who want to buy the Eurail and Britrail passes together.

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