UK to leave the Interrail pass scheme.

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I am seeking member’s views on the announcement that the UK will be leaving the EU wide Interrail scheme from January 2020.

This is not Brexit related but appears to be a commercial decision by the Rail Delivery Group, who represent the UK train operators and is designed to protect the BritRail pass following the decision by the Dutch administered Interrail scheme to merge its EU citizen only interrail pass with its non- EU citizen Eurail pass.  RDG say that this move conflicts with its own BritRail pass also aimed at non-EU citizens.

From January EU and UK Interrail ticket holders will be able to travel around the rest of Europe by train as before but only in the UK on Eurostar trains to Ashford, Ebsfleet or London.  Travel, within the rest of the UK (less Northern Ireland that is covered by an all-Ireland agreement) will need to be paid for in the normal manner.  RDG appear to be suggesting that the availability to EU and non-EU citizens of the BritRail pass, which they quote as “being supported by VB” makes this a none issue for tourism.  I don’t think I necessarily agree, albeit currently without access to usage figures or any directly rail related statistics.

I find it improbably that those buying an Interrail pass giving free travel anywhere in Europe, but only to London in the UK will view Britain as an attractive destination as it would have been before UK wide travel was stopped.

Those using the Interrail pass to come to either Ashford, Ebbsfleet or London as part of a wider European tour are unlikely to want to buy the BritRail pass or individual tickets to go much beyond London, compounding the international tourist dispersal issues that both the Discover England Fund and latterly the Tourism Sector Deal profess to want to address.

There may well be good commercial or practical reason for RDG to make this decision, but I need to be convinced that it is in the UK best interests and that it fits with the wider aims of the UK Government’s tourism policy.  It really couldn’t have come at a worse time given Brexit and its negative impacts on EU attitudes to travel to the UK.

I am assuming that Government departments have sanctioned this decision, having first considered all the implications?  Whether or not they have, I do believe that it needs to be challenged regardless of whether RDG have the option or opportunity to change their minds. Do you agree?

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