MEPs may have been reminiscing over their own youth travel experiences using Interrail when they came up with the idea of offering Interrail passes for free to teens turning 18 years of age. The idea, drawn up by MEP Mark Weber, was touted as the perfect way to foster inter-connectedness throughout Europe by offering young people a month-long rail journey through 30 countries. If implemented, it would cost 1.5 billion euros (provided 50-70 percent of 18 year olds participated).
What better way to fight against nationalism and rekindle waning enthusiasm in the European Union than by getting youth on the train that celebrates diversity? Here are 8 reasons why the idea of giving free Interrail passes to 18 year olds simply rocks!
1. You’re on a train to Berlin, with French Pierre by your side, whom you feel you’ve known for years even though you just met a few days ago at the Spanish steps in Rome before realising that you were both heading in the same direction. So you travel for a while, side by side, on your Interrail pass and you forge ties between your two countries even though he’s German and you’re Greek and politics is the furthest thing from both your minds.
2. Interrail is already a symbol of European integration. Exploring the continent by train is a great way to create awareness for core European values and get to know different cultures.
3. To truly be unified as Europeans we need to share some common cultural experiences. By making Interrail passes for 18 year olds a rite of passage into adulthood and giving them a shared social experience to look forward to, we will only bond as Europeans.
4. Inevitably, young Europeans will fall in love with other nations and their lifestyles and decide to leave their home countries, enhancing EU mobility – a Europe without borders is one of the most fundamental goals of the European project, after all.
5. Greek youth in particular will be able to make use of the opportunity being offered. The cost of a 479-euro youth pass is a strain bearing in mind that youth unemployment is at around 50 percent. Hence, a gift of this kind may be the only opportunity they have to see the rest of Europe and travel beyond their own corner of the globe.
6. “Such a programme would give the opportunity to all young people – regardless of their social and educational background – to discover Europe diversity, and promote Interrail travel as a pragmatic way to reduce carbon foot print,” state the plans.
7. Free Interrail passes will do wonders for tourism as young users with a travel bug spend money on accommodation, try local restaurants and shop at the countries they visit.
8. Citizens of member states not part of the Interrail connection, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta, will be allowed to use other modes of transport free of charge under the scheme, such as a bus or ferry giving them a chance to experience this form of rail travel that would otherwise not have been as accessible.