It’s an opportunity for a journey that could change your life
The EU will pilot a scheme this summer which will enable 20,000 to 30,000 teenagers to travel around Europe completely free by presenting them with an Interrail pass on their 18th birthday.
The idea was first mooted in 2016 to encourage young people, particularly those in lower income brackets, to explore the continent and “foster a European identity”.
The tickets, valid for one month and worth up to €510 each, allow holders to travel through 30 countries on 32 rail networks. It’s also valid for alternative forms of transport, such as buses and ferries, in countries that lie outside the Interrail network. These include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Cyprus.
The cost of the trial is around €12 million, and in years to come, the plan is to give the ticket to every EU citizen on their 18th birthday. Cost estimates for this are around €1 billion.
Expensive? Perhaps; in the grander scheme of things, perhaps not. Tibor Navracsics, the EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport said: “It is important that we offer all our young people the opportunity to broaden their horizons by experiencing other countries. Education is not only about what we learn in the classroom, but what we discover about the cultures and traditions of our fellow Europeans.”
It’s a fine gesture. There’s always been a certain romance about rail travel, and it’s a great way of seeing the varied and beautiful scenery of the continent, before arriving right in the centre of one of Europe’s grand cities.
If the pilot scheme is a success, the EU hopes that it will be fully up and running, with free passes for all 18-year-olds, in 2020.