UK to stay in Interrail scheme after U-turn

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UK train companies will stay in the Interrail scheme, reversing Wednesday's decision, the operators' group says.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents UK train operators, had said the arrangement would end in January following a dispute with Eurail Group which manages the scheme.

But it prompted a backlash, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling for a U-turn.

RDG said it had reversed course "following the strong reaction".

"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," said Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions.

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

Pulling out of both schemes would have meant passholders could have travelled as far as London, but their tickets would not have taken them any further.

British travellers would have been able to buy passes around the continent, but they would not have been valid on UK railways apart from in Northern Ireland and on Eurostar trains.

The decision received heavy criticism on social media on Wednesday.

Mr Shapps tweeted: "It will make it harder for everyone else to explore the UK. A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE move in my view & I'm therefore calling on the RailDeliveryGrp to reverse their decision!"

Former Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis tweeted: "This is closing Britain to the next generation of continental Europeans."

'Reputational damage'

The decision to restart talks and come to an agreement with Eurail was greeted with relief by some on social media, but others were less complimentary.

One Twitter user commented: "The fact you even considered it has caused severe reputational damage for you."

Others expressed doubt about RDG's claim that it had "never wanted to leave" the Interrail scheme.

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

On Wednesday RDG claimed that Eurail Group had pushed it out of both schemes following a dispute.

The argument was over Eurail's decision to merge its two passes into one, RDG said. It feared 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.

But Eurail disputed this version of events, saying that RDG had pulled out after failing to "secure a competitive position" for Britrail.