The InterRail ticket, which allows for seamless train travel across the continent, is used by 300,000 EU citizens yearly
Not long after the Italian government started its new programme offering 18-year-olds the chance to spend €500 on culture, the news has emerged that the EU is considering offering every teenager celebrating his or her 18th birthday the chance to travel across the continent by train for free.
The InterRail pass is well known across all member states, with up to 300,000 European residents availing of some form of the railway ticket every year. MEPs and representatives from the European Commission raised the idea at the EP’s plenary session in Strasbourg yesterday, with the current transport commissioner Violeta Bulc, a Slovenia politician who has served in the position since 2014, describing it as an “excellent idea.”
The free InterRail Initiative was first proposed by two German campaigners two years ago, proposing the free travel opportunity as a way to help bring the European community closer together through fostering international relations and cultural exchange.
Manfred Weber, a centre-right politician representing the state of Bavaria as part of Germany’s MEPs, proposed the question for the sitting members to consider, saying a free pass could “become a true lighthouse project for the development of a common European identity in diversity.”
While the project is still only being considered, a major issue is where its funding would come from in the EU’s already stretched budget. For a community facing Brexit uncertainties, huge gains in far-right political parties, massive youth unemployment, and the ongoing influx of refugees fleeing war zones, finding an extra €473 per 18-year-old citizen for a railway birthday present is no easy feat.
Commissioner Bulc said one option to be considered is a European lottery, “with significant amounts of people winning free tickets.”
Regardless of whether it becomes a blanket system or lottery, there is bad news for any young British European citizens coming close to turning into legal adults. The free InterRail proposal would likely need to go through multiple draft readings and revision in the parliament and council before receiving the official seal of approval and becoming law across all remaining member states. As such, it is expected that the UK will have triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and will have formally left the EU by the time any train carrying newly-turned 18-year-old Europeans can leave the station.