Concerns for tourism and environment after UK rail companies pull out of European Interrail scheme

PUBLISHED: 16:33 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:14 08 August 2019

UK rail companies will no longer take part in the Interrail scheme. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

UK rail companies will no longer take part in the Interrail scheme. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

2012 Getty Images

UK rail firms will no longer take part in the Interrail scheme that allows people to travel around 31 European countries on a single ticket.

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The decision is not formally connected to Brexit, and Eurail Group which runs the scheme had previously announced that Brexit "will not affect the Interrail pass", stating that travellers from non-member states would be able to continue buying Interrail passes.

But UK companies are pulling out of the decades-old arrangement from January 2020, meaning that passengers will need to buy a separate ticket, offered by BritRail, for the British leg of their journey beyond London.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which runs BritRail, said: "We are ending the trial with Eurail because offering both passes is confusing and rail companies and Visit Britain support BritRail." However, the BBC has reported that the shift is also down to a "dispute" between RDG and Eurail Group.

Critics have slammed the decision, saying it will harm UK tourism and the environment.

Travel blogger Mark Smith, who runs website The Man In Seat 61, said in a tweet: "It's as if they see the Flygskam ['flight-shaming'] grass-roots movement towards rail, and instead of welcoming it, deliberately go out of their way to stop it."

He added that it's bad news for areas outside London, saying: "More inbound travellers likely to terminate in London and no longer venture north or west. Good news for airlines as outbound Brits will switch to regional flights to Paris instead of train to London plus Eurostar, all covered by their pass."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Jenny Randerson said: "The UK rail companies pulling out of Interrail will have a huge impact on both tourism and the environment. But the blame really lies at the feet of the Conservative government, who have failed to step in and stop the cancellation of this important scheme. Liberal Democrats demand better.

"Interrail is vital scheme, not just for tourism, but also for building bridges between different cultures across Europe. We must encourage more people to travel to the UK and they must travel in an environmentally friendly way, if we don't then the demand for flights will continue to increase and we will fail to reach our net-zero emissions by 2050 as the government has promised."

UK companies have taken part in the Interrail scheme since we joined the EU in 1973.

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