Free Interrail tickets up for grabs in new European Union scheme
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Free Interrail tickets up for grabs in new European Union scheme

Next month, any European young person who is 18 on 1 July 2018 will be able to apply for one of 15,000 free Interrail tickets, worth up to EUR500, for travel in Europe this summer, the European Commission has announced. The news was given May 3 at a Brussels meeting hosted by EU commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, Tibor Navracsics, and German Christian Democrat MEP Manfred Weber.

With a EUR12 million budget, the DiscoverEU initiative, based on a proposal from the European Parliament, has been launched to give young people the chance to “discover the continent’s rich cultural heritage, learn from other cultures and discover what unites Europe”.

“I am convinced that the ‘18th birthday’ Interrail pass for Europe could become a true flagship project for the development of a common European identity in diversity,” Weber said.

The Commission added that this autumn, a second round of applications may be organised, based on the remaining budget and feedback from participants travelling this summer. It would bring a further potential 5,000 free Interrail passes.

Lucky winners will enjoy up to 30 days’ train travel visiting between one and four destinations in Europe. And as 2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, travellers will be able to enjoy the many events taking place in Europe, the Commission notes.

In Belgium, these include the popular heritage days in the second (Wallonia) and third (Brussels) weekends of September. The 8-9 September weekend highlights “strange and unique” sites – think grottos, iceworks or offbeat architecture. In the 15-16 September weekend, Brussels wants to showcase “the people’s patrimoine”.

Applicants need to apply via the EU’s European Youth Portal. Further details will be available on this site later this month – and also via the ‘European Youth’ Facebook page and ‘European Youth’ twitter account.

The Interrail scheme, launched 1972 in the UK, initially boasted £27.50 monthly tickets giving unlimited rail travel across Europe for travellers aged 21 and under. 

Liz Newmark
The Brussels Times