The Interrail train program has allowed unlimited train travel across Europe at a fixed price for nearly 50 years, and earlier this week, UK train operators announced their withdrawal from the program, effective on January 1, 2020. For a whole 24 hours, people were speculating on the widespread consequences this might have on UK rail travel. But in a surprising turn of events, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the UK train industry, changed course and decided to remain in Interrail.
The withdrawal would have meant that travelers would no longer have the option of starting their journey from their home station. Instead, they would’ve needed to start on the Eurostar from London. And for European travelers, instead of being able to visit the UK as part of Interrail, they would’ve been required to purchase separate BritRail passes, which would’ve given them access to the UK’s rail system.
The announcement prompted some serious backlash, particularly from Liberal MP’s like Luisa Porritt, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat MEP’s. “This is a desperately sad decision,” she said, “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.”
Luckily, the RDG has had a change of heart. Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the RDG, said, “We are pleased to be able to tell passengers that we have reached agreement and will be remaining part of both the Interrail and Eurail passes.”
People are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief at the sudden reversal, but confidence in the RDG has taken a hit, with many believing it simply bowed to all of the negative pressure following its initial announcement.
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.
This article was updated on August 8, 2019.